With the return of dynamic forward Jae Heo ’14 after a two-year hiatus, the men’s soccer team appears primed for a NESCAC title run this season. The addition of Heo, plus a talented returning core from last season, should make Amherst one of the teams to beat in the conference.
The Jeffs enjoyed a solid season in 2010, finishing the year with a 13-2-4 overall record (5-1-3 NESCAC) and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16. They ended their season in gut-wrenching fashion, losing to Bowdoin on penalty kicks in the Round of 16. After finishing just behind Bowdoin, Williams and Middlebury in last year’s regular season standings, the Jeffs hope that Heo’s return can catapult the team to a NESCAC title.
Blessed with nifty footwork, blistering acceleration and innate soccer sense, Heo emerged as one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the NESCAC during his rookie season in 2008. The Korean striker led the NESCAC with seven goals in nine league games. As the team’s leading scorer, Heo sparked the Jeffs to the most successful season in program history. With Heo as the spark plug on offense, Amherst captured the NESCAC championship, and then mounted an epic run to the NCAA Final Four — the first national semifinal appearance in program history.
After the 2008 season, Heo was forced to fulfill his two-year military requirement in South Korea. Since his departure, the Jeffs have remained one of the better teams in the NESCAC, but have enjoyed less success in the year-ending tournaments.
While the Jeffs lost critical players like center midfielder Ian Rothkopf ’10 and gritty fullback Chris Skayne ’10 to graduation, the program returns the nucleus of last year’s starting lineup. Forward Spencer Noon ’13, who led the Jeffs with 12 goals in 18 games last season, will team up with Heo to form arguably the most dangerous 1-2 scoring punch in the NESCAC this fall. Co-captain and wing midfielder James Mooney ’12 will serve as another potent weapon on offense.Mooney scored eight goals last season, including a dramatic hat-trick performance in a 3-2 victory over St. Lawrence in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Jeffs welcome back star goaltender and co-captain Lennard Kovacs ’12. In the past three seasons as the starter, Kovacs has complied a career ‘goals against average’ mark of 0.64. Armed with a high standard of excellence, Kovacs will be asked to provide veteran leadership this season.
Seniors Thebe Tsatsimpe ’12, who emerged as a vital center midfielder last season, and Sam Kaplan ’12, a rock-solid central defender, will also be co-captains this fall.
In 2008, with Heo slicing through opposing defenses on a regular basis, the Jeffs boasted the most prolific offense in the league by far, scoring 2.33 goals per game. To put that in perspective, the second best offense — Wesleyan — recorded just 1.56 goals per game. With a slew of talented playmakers, the Jeffs’ offense could provide some fireworks.
Amherst opens its season with a pair of out-of-conference road games next weekend, taking on Colby-Sawyer on Saturday, Sept. 10 and Bridgewater State that Sunday. The Jeffs will play their home opener on Saturday, Sept. 17 against Bates.