STANDISH — It is about a 14-mile drive from Westbrook to St. Joseph’s College.
For Zach Johnson, the journey took three years, with detours through Bridgton; Newton, Mass.; and Troy, Ohio.
But now Johnson is enrolled at St. Joseph’s, where he is a business major and a record-setting scorer for the Monks’ soccer team.
Johnson scored one of the goals Saturday as St. Joseph’s beat Norwich 4-1 for the Great Northeast Atlantic Conference title and a berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
The Monks, making their second NCAA appearance in three years, will play Trinity in the first round at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Babson College in Massachusetts.
“I knew we had a good group of returning players, and 13 new guys with a lot of potential,” said third-year coach Steve Babineau. “They gelled together quickly.”
One of the new guys was Johnson, a sophomore.
Johnson graduated in 2008 from Westbrook High, where he played soccer, hockey and baseball. Then he attended and played soccer at Bridgton Academy. From there, Johnson went to Lasell College in Newton, Mass., playing soccer for the Lasers.
Last year, at a crossroads with what he wanted to do, Johnson took up a friends’ offer to play junior hockey in Troy, Ohio. He returned home earlier this year and decided to go back to school. He called St. Joseph’s.
“A nice surprise,” Babineau said.
Johnson set the school record for goals in a season with 17, and added four assists.
Babineau said Johnson demonstrated an all-around game, and the Monks’ two center midfielders, Teddy Palmer and Mike Sanfilippo, “really control the game for us.”
If St. Joseph’s wins Saturday, the Monks play the Babson-Lesley winner on Sunday.
BOWDOIN IS preparing for three NCAA events this weekend. Not only did the Polar Bears wins NESCAC titles in field hockey and volleyball, but Bowdoin is also hosting the NCAA Division III New England Regional cross country championships on Saturday.
Bowdoin’s Coby Horowitz will be one of the favorites in the men’s race, and the University of Southern Maine’s Molly Carl of York will be among the women contenders.
The Polar Bears field hockey team, defending national champions and ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division III, will host second- and third-round matches Saturday and Sunday. Bowdoin (17-0) received a first-round bye and will play Saturday against the winner of Wednesday’s first-round game between Keene State and Endicott.
Bowdoin’s volleyball team is making its first appearance in an NCAA tournament. The Polar Bears (26-2) are one of eight teams playing in preliminary rounds Friday through Sunday at Springfield (Mass.) College. Whichever school survives this weekend’s three rounds advances to the national quarterfinals in St. Louis.
THE NATIONAL FIELD Hockey Coaches Association seniors games rosters have been announced.
UMaine’s Stephanie Gardiner and Kelly Newton were selected for the Division I game on Nov. 19 in Louisville, Ky.
For the Division III game at Dudley, Mass., also on Nov. 19, St. Joseph goalie Meaghan Johnson (Portland, and Cheverus High) and University of New England forward Michelle Oswald (Jay, Mt. Blue High) were chosen.
UMAINE DROPPED six spots in the Football Championship Subdivision poll, to No. 13.
The Black Bears are in a three-way, first-place tie with Towson and New Hampshire at 5-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Those three teams and Old Dominion (8-2, 5-2) are contending for NCAA playoff berths.
The Black Bears (7-2, 5-1 CAA) host Massachusetts (5-4, 3-3) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
UMAINE HOCKEY dropped out of the national rankings after its losses to Boston College and New Hampshire. Maine (3-4-1, 3-3 Hockey East) will host UMass-Lowell (3-3, 1-2) for two games this weekend.
Boston College, which looked unbeatable in its 5-1 romp over Maine on Friday, was upset at Massachusetts on Saturday, 4-2.
SOUTHERN MAINE Community College played in the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association soccer tournament in Asheville, N.C. While the Seawolves dropped their two games, they had two players named USCAA All-Americans – forward Blair Whitney of Cornish and defender Nick Link of South Portland.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]