Fireworks on the Fútbol Field
Issue   |   Wed, 10/26/2011 - 01:27
Rob Mattson
Captain Jill Kochanek ’12, known for her prowess in the air, scored the Jeffs’ second goal on a header from a corner kick.

Galvanized by a spirited home crowd, the women’s soccer team delighted fans with a decisive 3-0 win over Wesleyan at Homecoming this weekend. With the victory, the nationally eighth-ranked Jeffs (13-0-0, 9-0-0 NESCAC) clinched the top seed in the NESCAC tournament, thereby securing home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

The Jeffs overwhelmed Wesleyan with precise ball movement, dynamic attacking combinations and relentless pressure on defense, giving the Cardinals (8-5-0, 4-5-0 NESCAC) very little time to settle on the ball.

“I was pleased with our performance against Wesleyan. I thought we moved the ball well and attacked with a sense of urgency — something we’ve been working on all year,” head coach Jen Hughes said.

Taking the field on a crisp autumn day, the Jeffs stormed out to an inspiring start, creating a flurry of scoring chances in the early going. Amherst nearly stunned the visitors within the opening minute, but first-year Mel Stier’s volley whizzed just over the crossbar. Minutes later, Sarah Duffy ’14 fired a low shot that the Cardinals’ goalkeeper did well to smother.

The Jeffs grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute after a beautiful strike from Kathryn Nathan ’13. Receiving a pass near the top of the 18-yard box, Nathan turned and unleashed a thunderous shot above the outstretched arms of the Wesleyan goalkeeper.
The Cardinals nearly responded in the 18th minute, generating their best scoring chance of the match. Surging down the left flank, Wesleyan forward Kerry Doyle dribbled past a few defenders before firing a shot toward the upper-right corner of the net. Senior goalkeeper Allie Horwitz robbed the Cardinals with an incredible sprawling save, punching the ball above the crossbar to preserve the lead.

After that huge save, the Jeffs went back on the offensive. In the 24th minute, Chloe McKenzie ’14 did well to earn a corner kick by the left sideline, and the Jeffs capitalized on the ensuing set piece.

Nathan sent a dangerous ball toward the front post, allowing Kate Sisk ’14 to deflect the cross across the mouth of the goal. Co-captain Jill Kochanek ’12, positioned near the back post, found the airborne ball and headed it into the back of the net.

The Jeffs continued their strong play in the second half, dominating Wesleyan at both ends of the pitch. The Amherst back-line performed superbly, holding the Cardinals to only three shots in the final 45 minutes. The Jeffs finished the match with a decisive 25-10 advantage in shots.

On offense, the Jeffs generated a bevy of scoring opportunities, keeping the Cardinals scrambling in their own end. Duffy nearly converted a header from Steir’s cross in the 51st minute, but the Cardinals’ goaltender got both hands on the ball to make the save.

Minutes later, however, the Wesleyan keeper was less sure-handed after coming off her line to corral a low cross. As the ball slipped through her hands, forward Amanda Brisco ’14 alertly chased the loose ball, but her shot went inches above the bar as the Cardinals’ goaltender dove to cover the bottom portion of the net.

The next Amherst scoring chance came off a set piece in the 70th minute. Senior Allison Dorey swerved a dangerous free kick from the right edge of the box; Kochanek soared off the ground to win the header, but her effort sailed just over the Wesleyan bar.

Controlling possession for long stretches against a beleaguered Wesleyan side, the Jeffs finally added an insurance goal in the 83rd minute. Gathering the ball in the left side of the Wesleyan box, McKenzie fired a well-placed shot into the right corner of the net to extend the lead to 3-0.

The Jeffs can wrap up an undefeated regular season with a victory against lowly Conn. College (1-7-1 NESCAC) at Gooding Field today at 3:30 p.m.

Over the weekend, the Jeffs will take on the conference’s No. 8 seed in the NESCAC quarterfinals. As the first-place team in the standings, the Jeffs will enjoy home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

In 2010, the Jeffs advanced to the finals of the NESCAC tournament, only to suffer a devastating 1-0 loss to Williams in the championship match.

Earlier this season, the Jeffs exacted revenge by thrashing Williams 3-0 in October, but the Ephs (7-1-1 league record, second place in NESCAC) remain one of the most dangerous teams in the conference. The two rivals could very well meet again in the NESCAC championship.

While season-defining matches loom in the future, the Jeffs say they are concentrating on the immediate task of achieving an undefeated regular season, with one hurdle remaining against Conn. College.

“Right now, we’re just focused on beating Conn in our last regular season game,” Hughes said. “We are one step away from one of our team goals ­— to win every NESCAC game.”