The second season is about to start for William and Mary. After posting an impressive 13-4 (8-2-1 CAA) regular season record, the Tribe secured the no. 2 seed in the CAA Tournament and will travel to no. 1 University of North Carolina-Wilmington for the four-team showdown this weekend. Northeastern holds the third position, while Old Dominion rounds out the field.
“It will be a really interesting tournament,” Head Coach Chris Norris said. “I think any of the four teams could win it.”
After budget restrictions reduced the CAA Tournament from six to four teams, this year’s field is more refined than ever. Despite the increased competition, Norris feels this season’s squad, which boasts six All-CAA performers, has the ability to overpower its competitors.
“With this group, it is going to be more about us,” Norris said. “If we have the kind of performances we are capable of, if our older players, more experienced players step up and play big games, we have a shot to do very well and win the [tournament].”
In order for the Tribe make it to the conference championship game, it will look to extend its current six game unbeaten streak and defeat Northeastern for the second time this season. In the two team’s previous meeting, redshirt freshman midfielder Caleb Thomas notched a dramatic game winning double overtime goal to push the College to a 2-1 win at Albert-Daly Field.
The Huskies play a 4-3-3 that has caused problems for the Tribe before. Northeastern’s midfielder players clump themselves centrally on the pitch, forcing opposing teams to adjust. Northeastern also has talented group of forwards who play with pace and poise and have shown the ability to beat defenders one-on-one.
“They are a pretty organized team,” Norris said. “They don’t give up a lot of chances in the run of play. But again, I think that we did a real good job of being patient and creating opportunities [in our first matchup], and we have to do that again.”
Both UNCW and Old Dominion pose definite threats to take the title as well.
For the second straight season the Seahawks captured the CAA’s regular season title, going 8-0-3 in the conference. UNCW is a ‘defense-first’ team, which has an experienced backline. The Seahawks surrendered the fewest goals in the CAA (12), while compiling the most shutouts (9). Goalie Brandon Duckworth led the CAA in fewest goals allowed per game (.62) and saves per game (5.29).
Old Dominion boasts similar defensive prowess. The Monarchs also recorded nine shutouts, while goalie Evan Newton posted the fourth best save percentage (.797) in the league.
“Old Dominion gave us one of our most difficult games of the year,” Norris said. “And that was a game where we felt very fortunate to have gotten the win. They have won some games late in the year, really late in games and are playing with a bit of confidence now.”
Yet for Norris, the message remains the same. It isn’t about who the Tribe is facing, but how his team is playing.
“I’m not as concerned about the other teams at the moment,” Norris said. “It will be more about our performances and what kind of form we have on the particular weekend.”
Tip-off for the Northeastern match is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday night.