Westling shifts roles, Williams moves on
After adapting to a new position, striker, as a freshman at Williams College, Jonathan Westling (inset) took what the Sudbury native called “a crash course” on playing defense from men’s soccer coach Mike Russo.
The tutorial came two weekends ago, just hours before the Ephs’ NCAA Division 3 quarterfinal matchup at archrival Amherst.
A standout at Phillips Academy in Andover, Westling was told that he would start at left outside back to help counter Amherst’s quick and aggressive front line.
Amherst had defeated Williams, 2-0, on Nov. 4 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship game, prompting Russo to shake things up for their rematch.
“Coach Russo said my assignment was to be physical, chase balls down, and run and compete with their forwards,” Westling recalled.
The teams battled to a scoreless draw through two overtimes before Williams (16-1-4) prevailed on penalty kicks, 4-3, and advanced to Friday’s NCAA semifinal in San Antonio against Ohio Northern University.
Westling, a Dual County League All-Star his sophomore year at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High, and a Globe All-Scholastic selection his senior season at Andover, played the entire 110 minutes in the biggest game of his college career.
“I was surprised and pretty nervous,” recalled the 6-foot-3, 177-pound Westling, whose father, Jeff, played in the 1974 NCAA Division 2 soccer tournament as a freshman at Springfield College.
“I had started six games up front, but the most I had played in one game was 40 minutes. Looking back, if someone had told me I’d be a freshman on a team going to the Final Four, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
The elder Westling, past president of the Sudbury Youth Soccer Association, said that when “Jonathan told me he was starting, my first thought was he’d be at forward.
“I’m tall and lanky like my son, but I don’t remember running as hard and as fast in college as those young men from Williams and Amherst.”
Westling, his wife, Debra, and their daughter, Lauren, who played on the girls’ soccer team at Lincoln-Sudbury, were planning to attend the Final Four in Texas, where the other semifinalists are Messiah College and Loras College. The national championship game will be played Saturday.
At Andover, Westling played alongside future Williams teammate Tim Marchese, a sophomore midfielder from Concord who has been limited to four games because of injury.
Westling repeated his sophomore year after transferring to Andover, where he ran on the prep school’s New England championship 4x400 relay team and then decided to focus on soccer.
Andover advanced to the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council’s championship soccer game in his senior year under coach Bill Scott.
“The reminders (Scott) gave me about the game have made me a better player and a better teammate,” said Westling, who played center midfield at Andover.
Westling, who had attended Russo’s training clinics at Williams before committing to the college, said he was open-minded about his role this season.
“Every player here is capable of playing at a high level, so I was ready to accept whatever playing time I earned. I came to camp expecting to compete at midfield, but I had played some at striker when I was 14 or 15.”
Russo, impressed with Westling’s all-around game and his strong shot with either foot, used him up front in 19 games, then made his bold switch.
“I asked Jonathan if he was ready and willing to play defense against Amherst, he said ’yes’ and that was good enough for me,” said Russo, whose team lost in the 2009 NCAA semis, 2-1, to eventual champ Messiah.
With three positions on his college soccer resume, Westling isn’t quite sure where he’ll be on the pitch next season.
“The important thing is where I can help the most,” he said. “To be called on like that against Amherst was very humbling and very exciting.”
His dad’s Springfield team also lost to the eventual national champion — Adelphi — in the ’74 NCAA tournament, but won the Eastern College Athletic Conference championship a year later.
“I’m proud of Williams and proud of Jonathan,” the elder Westling said. “He’s a terrific athlete who has contributed to every team he’s played with.”
Johnson helps lead Lyons to perfect start
Wheaton College senior men’s basketball forward Brian Johnson, a graduate of Brimmer and May School in Chestnut Hill, helped lead the Lyons to their third win in as many starts last week.
The 6-foot-2 Johnson scored 13 points and added 10 boards in Wheaton’s 61-57 victory over Emerson on Nov. 20.
He was averaging 8.7 points and 8 rebounds per game heading into Tuesday’s game at Mount Ida College.
Babson hockey team gets back on track
After an 0-2-2 start, the Babson College men’s hockey team reeled off a pair of wins heading into Friday’s home game against Southern Maine.
Junior forward Troy Starrett of Bellingham (Catholic Memorial) registered a pair of goals, and senior forward P.T. Donato of Arlington (St. Sebastian’s) had two assists in the Beavers’ first win, 6-1, over Castleton State.
Babson then topped St. Olaf, 3-0, last Saturday, when Donato recorded his sixth assist in as many games, and freshman forward Max Franklin of Wrentham (Noble & Greenough School) notched his second assist of the season.
Starrett had 4 goals and an assist this season, while Donato, son of Babson Hall of Famer and former head hockey coach Paul Donato, had 24 goals and 39 assists in 83 career games at the Wellesley school.
Senior goalie Zeke Testa, a team cocaptain from Wellesley (Berkshire School), had played in two games this season.