BRIDGEWATER, Va. – The 2012 season has been a rollercoaster ride for the Bridgewater College men's soccer team.
Outside of the locker room, little was expected of the team as evidenced by the fact the Eagles were picked to finish 10th in the ODAC preseason poll.
The season started with a road loss to Gettysburg, but then the Eagles reeled off five straight wins, including victories over nationally-ranked Salisbury and defending ODAC champion and preseason favorite Randolph College.
The team cracked the regional poll for a couple of weeks and was rolling along with a 9-3 record before four consecutive losses within the conference put their postseason chances in jeopardy.
The Eagles did secure the No. 7 seed for the conference tournament and closed the season with a 1-0 victory over Shenandoah. The victory over the Hornets not only halted the losing skid, but it sends the team into the ODAC tournament on a positive note.
Bridgewater's first-round opponent is the No. 2 seeded Washington and Lee Generals. W&L finished the regular season with a 10-4-2 overall record and 7-2-2 mark in the ODAC.
The Eagles first trip to Lexington was not a pleasant one. The Eagles were 3-0 in conference play before the Generals handed the team a 3-0 shutout defeat.
"We certainly didn't play well against them," Bridgewater head coach Ryan Bennison said of the first meeting. "Things should look different this time. We're only going to have four guys playing in the same position as the first game. That should give W&L a different look."
Coming off a win over Shenandoah was a solid boost for the Eagles.
"That was a good win for us over Shenandoah," Bennison said. "Our top 11 are playing well and playing hard. We didn't perform well against W&L the first time, but we're excited to have another opportunity. "
Statistically, W&L ranks as the top defensive team in the ODAC, allowing just 12 goals all season. The Generals held opponents scoreless in nine of their 16 contests.
Albert Civatarese has spent the majority of time in goal for the Generals and has recorded seven shutouts on the season. His defenders have also been solid as Civatarese has been forced to make just 34 saves in 14 games for an average of less than three saves per contest.
"They have a good keeper. He has good size and he manages the game well," Bennison said. "What W&L does a really good job of is playing good team defense with the other 10 guys on the field."
Much of the Generals offense goes through sophomore Zach Colby. The Generals have tallied 28 goals this season with 13 coming from Colby. "Colby is a physical player and is strong on the ball," Bennison said. "He likes to take advantage of 1-on-1 opportunities. He's shown that he can put the ball in the net."
On defense, goalkeeper TJ Martin missed two late-season games, but returned to record the shutout in the final regular season game, a 1-0 victory over Shenandoah.
Bennison is confident his team is ready for Saturday's challenge.
"W&L is the No. 2 seed for a reason. They have a very good team," Bennison said. "But I believe in my group. We can beat good teams. We've done that earlier this season.
"The key Saturday will be matching and exceeding W&L's intensity. We have to be aggressive. We have to win the 1-on-1 battles and we have to be solid with our defense."
Game time for Saturday's first round game in Lexington is 3 p.m.