WORCESTER – Emerson’s men’s soccer team lost by large margins in its first two New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference matches, but the Lions took a step forward on Saturday, Oct. 5 against Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Emerson conceded a goal just before halftime and then again in the 62nd minute, but a standout performance by sophomore goalkeeper Carter Bowers kept the goal-starved Lions in it with a strong performance in a 2-0 loss at WPI’s Alumni Field.
“As the season’s going on, we’re starting to get better and better results,” said Bowers (seven saves), who has been called to action frequently. “The first two games we kind of got thrashed, but this game, 2-0, as much as we would have liked that [win], it does show that we’re improving.”
The Lions previously took a 5-1 loss against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and fell 6-0 to Springfield College.
It was the fourth time this season Bowers has turned away at least seven shots. He currently leads the NEWMAC with 48 saves through nine matches in net.
“[Bowers] played outstanding,” said Emerson men’s soccer head coach Jared Scarpaci. “We certainly wouldn’t have been in the game without him.”
Bowers made five of his saves in the second half as the hosts sent in 10 of its 12 shots taken after the break. Those stops included turning back WPI freshman Matt Farrell on a 47th-minute breakaway and making a reactionary save on two quick headers in the 71st minute. Bowers saved three shots by WPI’s Tynan MacLeod.
In both previous NEWMAC matches, Emerson (6-5, 0-3) fell behind within the opening three minutes. On the offensive side, the Lions have scored just once in the NEWMAC—a late consolation against MIT—but have averaged 2.4 goals per contest in eight non-conference matches, going 6-2 against competition commensurate to its old league, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference.
“That was actually one of our goals: not to [give up an early goal],” Scarpaci said. “We were excited about that part. We were excited that we battled all the way to the end, too, but we need to work on some things tactically.”
WPI (8-2-1, 2-1) played without the NEWMAC’s leading scorer, senior Chris Ciampa, but broke through 40:41 into the game on an individual effort by Kurt Naugler, who also assisted on the Engineers’ second tally.
Naugler took possession past the penalty spot 15 yards out, sidestepped to the left, and left Bowers helpless to respond with a finish into the upper left corner.
“They played very hard,” WPI co-head coach Malcolm MacPherson said. “Jared does a nice job with them. I just think as the years go on they’ll get better and better. Their goalkeeper played very well, one of their center backs [junior Pat Lowndes] played very well, and they were dangerous [on offense].”
Lowndes had to come off in the 58th minute due to a strained right quadriceps.
The Engineers exposed his absence three minutes later when Farrell received a through ball from Naugler and slotted a low shot past Bowers, who couldn’t close out the angle, setting the final score at the 61:02 mark.
“Their defense was very aggressive and they played the ball out of the back well,” Bowers said. “They played a very direct ball right into my [18-yard-box], right through the middle of the field. They’re a very direct, athletic team and that’s something that we haven’t seen in the past and that we’re learning to cope with.”
MacPherson said WPI tweaked its formation at halftime, packing the middle with three central midfielders and pushing numbers forward to go for the win.
Adam Halliday led Emerson with two shots on frame. Halliday sent a header on target in the 32nd minute and also sent in a late try in the 87th minute.
Along with Bowers and Lowndes, Scarpaci said he was also pleased with the play of sophomore defenders Mitch Lapierre, Jeremy Leder, and Alex Van Pelt, but that the Lions need to work on their finishing touch.
“We still want to make the conference tournament, we still want to win 10 games, and we have the opportunity to do that,” Scarpaci said.
Emerson has five games left on the docket, four against NEWMAC teams.
Next, the Lions take their furthest road game of the season, a trip to Coast Guard in New London, Conn., for a match at noon on Saturday, Oct. 12.