Nationally Ranked Yeomen Prepare for Postseason
It only took two goals to seal the deal. With a 2–0 win over the Hiram College Terriers Tuesday, the No. 25 Oberlin College Yeomen earned their place in the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament for the third time in four years — capping off a season that has brought 13 wins and the highest national ranking in program history.
“It took a lot of patience to score the first goal, but we kept a positive mentality,” senior forward Dan Lev said. “Our defense held them to no shots on goal which bodes very well going into the postseason.”
The Yeomen seemed to be in a lull for nearly the first 70 minutes of the game, until junior midfielder Jonah Blume-Kemkes got them going. The Santa Monica, CA, native connected with fellow junior forward Tim Williams to put the Yeomen on the board.
Just ten minutes later, first-year forward Jack McMillin got a pass through to senior midfielder Nick Wertman, who found the back of the net for Oberlin’s second goal.
Wertman’s goal landed him in a tie atop the NCAC in scoring with DePauw’s Julian Gonzalez. This season, Wertman has spearheaded the Yeomen’s offense, notching 13 goals and 29 points.
For the Yeomen, the win over the Terriers was a quick turnaround from their bruising loss to the Ohio Wesleyan University Battling Bishops Oct. 22. The Yeomen struggled to find an offensive rhythm against the Bishops stiff defense and were outshot 18–13.
Oberlin had their chances, firing nearly twice as many shots in the first half, but ultimately couldn’t connect. Head Coach Blake New attributes the team’s inability to capitalize off of Bishops mistakes as one of the deciding factors in the loss.
“It was a very even game, and unfortunately they finished their chances and we didn’t finish ours,” he said.
The Bishops had a 1–0 lead into halftime, with the Yeomen still struggling to find their groove as they were outshot 12–2 in the second half. Because of this setback, Oberlin dropped to third place in the NCAC standings. With their previous loss Oct. 11 in a 3–2 double-overtime thriller against No. 13 Kenyon College, the Yeomen rebounded well, securing two key conference wins over the Wittenberg University Tigers and the Allegheny College Gators.
Against the Wittenberg University Tigers on Oct. 15, the Oberlin offense exploded en route to a 7–0 victory. The dynamic duo of senior forward Sam Weiss and Wertman set the ball rolling seven minutes in, teaming up for Weiss’ fourth goal of the season. Wertman credits the pair’s on-field chemistry as the key to the goal.
“Sammy and I have been playing together since our freshman year of high school,” Wertman said. “Because of that, we have a really strong chemistry and understanding of one another when we play together. To see that come to fruition against Wittenberg was really awesome.”
In the span of 10 minutes, the two took turns as Weiss added another goal of his own before Wertman followed suit with a header assisted by first-year forward/midfielder Jack McMillin who scored just a minute later.
Up by five goals at halftime, the Yeomen held steady for the entirety of the match. From 30 yards away, sophomore midfielder Trenton Bulucea sent in a cross that maneuvered its way through the crowd that Weiss headed into the back of the net. First-year forward/midfielder Jiadi Cheng chipped in the final tally, his first collegiate goal.
In their battle against the Allegheny College Gators, the scoreboard didn’t represent the extent of Yeomen domination, as they commanded possession and dictated the majority of game play. But, out of Oberlin’s 25 shots, only eight were on net, and six were stopped by Gators goalkeeper David Stekla.
Again, it was Wertman who took the lead just six minutes in as a tip-in off of junior defenseman Jesse Lauritsen’s blocked attempt gave the Yeomen a 1–0 lead. For the next 60 minutes, though, Oberlin would be held scoreless until Bulucea secured the victory at 66:11 thanks to a set-up from Weiss.
Winners of three of its past four matches, Oberlin’s confidence is at a high as it prepares for the postseason.
“Everyone is playing together and meshing well,” Wertman said. “We’ve worked really hard to put together a playing style that we’re super comfortable with and that we can adapt to deal with different defenses.”
The last regular season game against the Denison University Big Red will determine if Oberlin hosts the first round of tournament. After defeating the Big Red 2–1 in double-overtime last year, tomorrow’s clash at 7 p.m. on Fred Shults Field is a critical match-up.
“We have every chance in front of us to get to the point where we can host a playoff game,” New said. “Who knows — whatever else happens — we still have a chance to win the championship.”