Sponsored by Scoreboard Enterprises
By BOB YORK
For the hundreds of student athletes who annually graduate from schools affiliated with the New England Prep School Athletic Council, the challenges of selecting an athletic arena to compete in at the collegiate level can be a daunting. Some pursue the bright lights of conferences that The Big 12, Big 10 and Big East can provide. Others, meanwhile, seek to attain their goals in a more intimate setting – a venue such as the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
This past fall, a number of former NEPSAC athletes once again proved that whether you go big or go small, there’s still plenty of competition to go around at all levels to make the trek to the top both challenging and rewarding.
Aspen Pierson would likely agree, as the former Rivers School standout scored two goals – one on a crucial penalty kick – to help propel Williams College over Middlebury College, 3-2, to earn its second consecutive National Div. III Women’s Soccer Championship on Dec. 1. The victory also gives the Ephs, who finished with a 19-1-4 record on the season, their third national title in the past four years.
The national championship showdown not only pitted two long-time NESCAC archrivals against each other, but showcased nine NEPSAC graduates as well. This title game marked the third time this fall these two teams faced each other. Williams won the first meeting, 1-0, while Middlebury took the second – the NESCAC championship game – by an identical score. Williams then grabbed the rubber match at the nationals.
In other Div. III title action this fall, NEPSAC grads helped Tufts University trim Calvin College, 2-1, to claim the men’s soccer tournament, while Middlebury claimed national bragging rights in field hockey by downing Tufts, 2-0.
“We’ve always made a habit of seeking out the best scholar/athletes we can find to fill our rosters here at Williams College,” said Assistant Coach Tressa Palcheck. “Doing that takes us throughout the country and often beyond but quite frequently, we find that combination right here in our own backyard … right here in New England.
“We’ve had a long history of recruiting student/athletes from New England Prep School Athletic Council schools and those recruits have consistently done well in our classrooms as well as on our athletic teams,” added Palcheck. “We ‘ve found they buy into our team culture and put team above self.”
Pierson, a sophomore who now owns a pair of national championship rings, was one of the team’s leading point producers this season with 12 points on four goals and four assists. Sophomore Sydney Jones, out of Choate, meanwhile, was an Ephs’ Top Gun, netting 10 goals and two assists for 22 points.
As far as leadership is concerned, Williams plucked a team captain from the NEPSAC group for the second straight year, as senior Sarah Hollinger (Lawrenceville) filled a captain’s slot. She also contributed five points via two goals and one assist to the cause. Last year, former Exeter standout Danielle Sim, served as a captain. Liz Webber, a junior from Rivers, who chipped in one goal and one assist, rounded out the NEPSAC entries.
Middlebury, which ended its season with a silver medal from the national tourney and a gold medal from the NESCAC tourney for its trophy case and a 19-2-3 mark for its record book, felt fortunate to feature five former NEPSAC players on its roster, including, like Williams, a team captain. Senior Abigail Blyler, a Suffield Academy grad, was one of four team captains and although she tallied just three points on one goal and one assist this fall, she still had quite a year for herself.
“Abby suffered what was thought to be a career-ending knee injury her sophomore year but she worked hard at her rehabbing and made it all the way back to play for us again this fall,” said Panther Coach Peter Kim. “She showed a lot of heart in getting back into the lineup and her teammates showed their appreciation for her determination by voting her as a captain.”
Sophomore Eliza Van Voorhis, a graduate of Falmouth Academy, has shown off a gifted foot for the Panthers. This past season she hit the 20-point plateau with eight goals and four assists and has chalked up 31 points during her two years at Middlebury with 13 goals and five assists.
Leah Salzman, a sophomore out of Choate, collected five goals and a pair of assists for 11 points this fall, while Virginia Charman, a junior from Brooks, netted one goal this season. Former Kingswood Oxford standout Ellie Bavier went scoreless during her freshman year.
The Jumbos culminated an undefeated 18-0-3 men’s soccer campaign by bringing home a third national championship in the past five years to cram into their already bulging trophy case.
“There’s a lot of soccer talent coming out of the prep schools and high schools of New England, and we try our best to keep track of it all as best we can,” said Josh Shapiro, who has headed up the Jumbo soccer program for the past nine years and appears to get his share of the cream of the crop as his teams have produced an 88-35-23 record and a 44-18-17 showing in NESCAC play. “We’ve found this area to consistently produce outstanding student athletes, the kind that do you proud in the classroom and on the soccer field.”
Junior Gavin Tasker is one of those recruits Shapiro kept track of and then convinced him to attend Tufts. The Middlesex School grad and two-time All-Independent School League nominee, culminated a 17-point season for the Jumbos by being named to the first-team All NESCAC and All Region squads. He did so by collecting seven goals and three assists on the season, including a setup during the Div. III title game.
“Gavin’s been a good one for us,” said Shapiro of his three-year veteran, who has chalked up 35 career points on 14 goals and seven assists while contributing to two national titles and a 48-7-9 record. “He’s emerged as not only one of the elite Div. III players in New England but one of the best throughout the entire country as well.”
Despite playing back on defense, senior Sterling Weatherbie, an Exeter product, finished the season with nine points on four goals and one assist. Although being a part of two national championship teams, quite possibly the highlight of Weatherbie’s career with the Jumbos was being voted a captain by his peers as a junior as well as a senior.
“In my opinion, Sterling has a great chance at being named All-American,” said Shapiro. “He was an outstanding defensive player for us and sparked a unit that allowed just 13 goals in 42 games over the past two seasons. More than that, however, was his leadership skills. His energy and drive were the life blood of the team and fortunately for the rest of us, it was contagious … we all fed off it.”
Freshman Will Raphael, who earned Western New England Prep School Association and New England Prep School Association All-Star berths for his play at Phillips Andover, posted a pair of goals this fall, while a pair of goalkeepers wrapped up the NEPSAC entries on the Jumbos’ roster. They were sophomore Will Harned out of Green Farms Academy and freshman Harry Weitzel, who played his prep soccer at Roxbury Latin.
Spooky Nook in Manheim, Pennsylvania didn’t turn out to be all that spooky for the Middlebury College field hockey team this fall. That was the site of this year’s Division III NCAA Tournament and the Panthers came away with their fourth national title and their second consecutive crown following a 2-0 win over Tufts University. The game marked the fourth all-NESCAC NCAA final and the ninth straight year a NESCAC team has won the title.
Senior Grace Jennings, who played her prep field hockey at Hotchkiss, chipped in five goals and two assists during the four-game tourney to earn Most Outstanding Player laurels. The senior closed out her collegiate career with three National Championships and easily eclipsed the century mark by posting 132 points on 43 goals and 46 assists. Her post-season splurge gave her 39 points on her senior campaign with 16 goals and seven assists.
Earning a spot on the all-tournament team was a just reward for senior goaltender Megan Collins, as goals proved hard to come by for Middlebury’s opponents, not only in the tourney, but all season long. Collins, who spent four years playing field hockey at Greenwich Academy, wrapped up her career with the Panthers by allowing just three goals in four tourney games and her two shutouts gave her eight on the season. Overall, she finished with 24-2 record.
Another key contributor was sophomore Danielle Brown, a former Noble & Greenough standout, who chipped in 12 goals and one assist this fall to give her 35 points in just two seasons on 16 goals and three assists. Meg Feary, a sophomore defender out of St. Paul’s, meanwhile, had seven points on three goals and an assist Junior Sophia Peluso, of Berkshire and freshman Riley Marchin of Choate rounded out the team. Grace Harlan, a freshman who played at Lawrence, played four games between the Panther pipes and allowed one goal in four games.
Beth Krikorian, a former Phillips Andover soccer standout who helped lead her school to back-to-back championships in 2015 and 2016 and earned a spot on the 2016 NEPSAC, All-Tournament Team, was Tufts’ third leading scorer this fall as a sophomore with 18 points on seven goals and four assists – including three game-winning goals.
Freshman goalkeeper Emma Smith was the only other former NEPSAC player on the Jumbos’ roster. She played in two games this fall and did not allow a goal.
As for the game of football, no NESCAC teams made it to the medals round on the national level, but when it came to announcing this year’s all-conference team, there were a lot of former NEPSAC athletes who earned postseason awards. In fact, when all the ballots had been cast, 10 former prep standouts garnered first-team honors, while six more made second-team laurels.
To the victor belonged the majority of spoils and in this case, that meant Trinity College, which chalked up its third straight league crown this fall and thus placed 13 players on the All-Star roster, including seven former NEPSAC players.
Heading up the Bantams’ lengthy list of stars is former Wilbraham-Monson running back Max Chipouras, who was named an Offensive Player of the Year. Chipouras, who was named the conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2015 and has earned three straight NESCAC First-Team berths, led the league in rushing this year with 1,143 yards and in all-purpose yards with 1,179.
Sophomore wide receiver Jon Girard, who played his prep ball at Trinity Pawling, won a first-team nomination, after churning up 1,052 yards and nine touchdowns, as did senior kicker Eric Sachse, out of Worcester Academy, who rang up 56 points on the season, converting on seven of eight field goal attempts and 35 of 40 conversions.
Trinity’s freshman quarterback Seamus Lambert, a Brooks product, was named the conference’s Offensive Rookie of the Year after completing 54 f 78 passes on the season for 752 yards and nine touchdowns. The Bantams also filled three of the four defensive line slots, with James Christiano (Avon Old Farms), Corey Jean Jacques (Westminster) and Devyn Perkins (Tilton) situated up front.
Rounding out the first-team was Tufts offensive lineman Tim Reitzenstein (Exeter) and defensive backs Tim Preston (Lawrence), and Middlebury’s Matt Daniel (St. Sebastian’s).
The second-team offense included Amherst wide receivers Bo Beauluti (Choate) and James Oregan (Buckingham, Brown & Nichols) as well as offensive linemen A.J. Rattee (Tilton) of Hamilton, Josh Thibeault (Exeter) of Tufts, Kevin Woodring (Greenwich) of Middlebury and kicker Andrew Schreibstein (Loomis) of Williams. The lone NEPSAC entry on the second-team defense was Martin Williams (Noble & Greenough) of Middlebury.
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