It must have seemed like 2,000 on 11 for the Wesleyan Cardinal soccer team this past Saturday.
Hundreds of rowdy Amherst fans patrolled the sideline, cheering on their beloved Jeffs and jeering their opponents, with Wesleyan goalie Adam Purdy setting the brunt of the howling.
Purdy and the Wesleyan defense, however, were able to keep the Jeffs scoreless through 90 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of extra time, earning a 0-0 draw that won the Cardinals the Little Three regular season championship and probably the NESCAC too.
Saturday’s matchup featured the NESCAC’s best offense against its best defense, with the Jeffs averaging a league high 2.38 goals per game and the Cardinals allowing only four total goals over 12 games, allowing just .31 goals against.
The Jeffs had the better opportunities of the first half, outshooting Wesleyan 7-2. Spencer Noon ’13 nearly scored shortly after the eight-minute mark when he tested Purdy with a low drive on goal. The Wesleyan keeper recorded seven saves, including a pair of shots from Casey McNamara ’13 and four from Alejandro Sucre ’13.
In typical fashion, the Jeffs generated much of their offense from their stellar defensive line. Sam Kaplan ’12 won a free kick in the offensive third and fellow defender Ben Norton ’14 nearly put in the ensuing far-post cross, heading the ball into the goal’s side netting.
Later in the half, outside back Julien Aoyama ’14 served a long cross into the box from midfield, but Alejandro Sucre ’13 narrowly missed catching up with the ball.
The second half and overtimes, however, belonged to Wesleyan. The Cardinals subbed more frequently than the Jeffs and generated the better chances, including a shot off the woodwork and another just over the bar.
Amherst keeper Lennard Kovacs ’12 recorded his 30th career shutout in the draw, yet another impressive milestone he’s achieved in his four-year tenure between the pipes.
Kaplan commented on Kovac’s performance, explaining, “Playing with Lennard for four years has been a huge privilege for me. Len is a fantastic keeper, and it always gives me confidence knowing that I have him behind me.”
Though last weekend’s tie with Wesleyan left the two squads undefeated, Wesleyan took the Little Three crown as it defeated Williams 2-1 earlier this season, while Amherst tied the Ephs 2-2.
After the game, Amherst head coach Justin Serpone found himself more upset with his team’s play than with the Little Three result.
“From my point of view, I was disappointed at the execution, and I don’t think any of us are satisfied with how we played,” said Serpone. “The result aside, we need to play much, much better if we are going to achieve postseason success.”
The Lord Jeffs close out their regular season Wednesday against Conn. College, a team they’ve lost to in two out of their last three appearances. The team needs a win and a Wesleyan loss to Trinity to secure the top seed in the NESCAC tournament, which starts Saturday.