Men’s soccer historic run ends in NEWMAC finals loss to Babson


Arthur Mansavage

The men’s soccer team made history playing in the first NEWMAC final in program history.

By Tyler Foy, Sports Editor

With the sun beaming down at Hartwell-Rogers Field, the calming breeze became chilling, only audible in the silence surrounding the Emerson men’s soccer team bench following the loss to Babson in the NEWMAC finals.

From the beginning, the Lions were doubted by the entire conference, chosen by the NEWMAC Coaches’ Poll to finish dead last following a lackluster 3-11-2 campaign in 2021. Athletic Director Pat Nicol said she didn’t predict the Lions would be in the title fight, but knew the team was on track toward success.

“I can’t say that I thought we would be in the championship game,” she said. “I knew we had potential … it was just a matter of time and a little bit of luck.”

The Lions’ coaching staff—Head Coach Daniel Toulson and assistant coaches Liam McKersie and Chris Connolly—worked diligently to add a new influx of talent which powered the Lions to prove many naysayers wrong. When the NEWMAC playoffs arrived, they entered as a No. 2 seed, sporting a 4-2-1 in-conference record and sitting 10-3-6 overall. Nicol explained the process started while Toulson was an assistant to former Head Coach Bryan Harkin.

“It takes time to build the program,” she said. “Between Dan and Liam, they’re a great combination and they’re building a winning culture. They were aggressive and intentional in their recruiting and it’s starting to show.”

After beating No. 3 MIT on penalties, the Lions were off to a match they had yet to participate in—the NEWMAC finals. The undefeated Babson Beavers bested the Lions 3-1 on Sep. 24, but sharp defense made this bout competitive until the final whistle.

Very few shots were taken in the opening minutes of the match, but anything on-target was smothered by Lions sophomore goalkeeper Ethan Fitzsimmons, who kept the match even by collecting four saves in the first half and guiding his defenders, who maintained 0.94 goals-against per game this year.

“I gotta give props to my defenders,” Fitzsimmons said after the game. “They played amazing all season and we couldn’t have gotten here without them.” 

At halftime, the match was deadlocked at 0-0, and when play resumed the Lions launched three separate attacks, all stopped by Babson’s keeper.

With many bodies in the Emerson penalty area, the Beavers’ graduate forward Ben Williams netted his 12th goal of the season on the 63-minute mark through a scrappy attack to put Babson one goal closer to its third consecutive NEWMAC championship.

The Lions attempted to rally, receiving a slew of free kicks and throw-ins, but the golden opportunity to equalize never came, and a 1-0 loss put an end to the men’s soccer playoff run. Despite the loss, the team claimed respect from the conference opponents in a bounce-back season.

“It’s obviously frustrating because we know we were good enough to win this game,” said senior Aiden Ferguson. “But I can’t be happier with how the guys really showed up today. We worked as hard as we could like we have all season and it just didn’t fall our way.”

Although Ferguson plans to stay on the team and pursue graduate school, this match ends the careers of the other seven seniors and graduate students. Through the years, this class of players changed coaches, finished last, and transformed the program, making history in their first-ever playoff run. Toulson said in the win against MIT that it was the Lions’ resilience that made the difference. On Saturday, Ferguson said that trait has been earned over time.

“[We’re] working every day with [our] best friends for years and years,” Ferguson said. “The reason why this team has gotten here is because the team is built on the strength we have,” he said.

As the Lions trek back to Emerson, there will be much to reflect on. But with many returners, the experience will serve as added inspiration for next season.

“After all that we’ve worked for this season, seeing another team carry that banner, that’s more than enough motivation we need to get back here next year,” Fitzsimmons said.

It seems the Lions already have their eyes set on the prize for 2023.

“Best believe once the team is ready, and we’re focused, we’re gonna be working just as hard to be back next year,” Ferguson said. “Next time, lifting the trophy.”