This fall, both the men’s and women’s soccer teams have a swagger about them on the pitch, something that the Bobcat faithful have only had glimpses of in recent years. This week both teams won their home openers by a combined ten goals, making huge statements about the kind of attitude they are playing with this year. Not only did each team play quality soccer in their home openers, but they also put together a week of play that Bates soccer hasn’t seen in years. Collectively over four games, the Bobcat footballers went 4-0 with a 13-1 goals for versus goals against margin, picked up two road victories, and had a hat trick from Peabo Knoth ’17. Saying the ‘Cats have started the fall on fire would be an understatement.
The women’s team point to the quantity of work put in during the offseason as the key to their success so far this year.
“I think that the grit this team has shown so far this year is due to the amount of work that we put in during the off season. A lot of my teammates came into preseason in great shape, so that we could hit the ground running once they got back on campus. I think that this team knows that one of the few controllable things in the game of soccer is the work rate,” said senior co-captain Julia Rice.
“This team has been putting in a lot of hard work on and off the field since the very first day of pre-season. We have a lot of potential this season, and will be a real threat to other NESCAC and non-conference teams,” added senior co-captain Leah Humes.
Coach Ross sees her team’s early success, particularly on the road, as a good indicator for later in the season. “WOSO (women’s soccer) loves a challenge! The schedule in the early part of the season will prove to be great preparation for the NESCAC tournament, where you play the semifinal and final in back-to-back games. Having success on the road is part of what separates elite teams from the rest of the pack,” she remarked.
One of the keys for the men’s team has been playing cohesive team defense. “We are continually functioning as one unit. There are very few gaps and we support well. Everyone works their tails off and it has shown,” stated goalkeeper Sam Polito ’16. Polito has personally benefited from this lockdown defense in goal, averaging just one save every 19 minutes and 20 seconds of play.
“The team has been doing really well. Conceding one goal in four matches is huge for us, and it has only been possible because the whole team is involved this year. The players on the bench are bringing a ton of energy to games, and they are more than ready to make an impact when they come on the field,” remarked senior Midfielder Luis Pereira, who has started the season on a tear, scoring five goals in four matches, including two game-winners and four assists.
Men’s coach Stewart Flaherty has been pleased with the high level of defending by his squad. “We are working towards having every player on the field be aware of when they need to press the ball, and where and when they need to take up a cover position,” he said. “It is worth mentioning that two goals this season already have been the direct result of us pressing opponents and winning the ball in the attacking area of the field.”
The NESCAC, home of the reigning men’s DIII national champions (Tufts University), and women’s national runner-up (Williams), plays host to some of the highest quality college soccer in America. It will be both exciting and a privilege to see both Bates teams in the thick of the postseason hunt this fall.