Women’s Soccer Snowballs Past Polar Bears 3-2
Issue   |   Wed, 11/02/2011 - 01:57
Risalat Khan ’13
Sarah Duffy ’14 scored the first goal of the game and assisted the last as she and her teammates battled arctic conditions and the Polar Bears.

With heavy snow blitzing Hitchcock Field, the top-seeded women’s soccer team booted away the wintry conditions en route to a nerve-racking 3-2 overtime victory over eighth-seeded Bowdoin in the NESCAC quarterfinals.
The undefeated Jeffs (15-0-0), ranked No. 8 in the nation, averted a first-round scare to continue their remarkable winning streak.

After navigating past a dangerous Bowdoin side, Amherst will battle fifth-seeded Wesleyan this Saturday for a berth in the NESCAC championship game.

The snow certainly made for a strange and entertaining contest against Bowdoin. Unfortunately for Amherst — a possession-oriented team — the slippery field neutralized the team’s skill advantages (crisp passing, ball control) and forced the Jeffs to adapt to a less efficient kick-and-run strategy.

“One of our biggest strengths as a team is our ability to connect passes with each other and move the ball around to each others’ feet,” center midfielder Kathryn Nathan ’13 said.

“The second half became a whole new game of soccer,” Nathan said. “With the snow quickly accumulating on the ground, it was a challenge just to dribble or pass the ball. Our strategy had to shift to finding each other with long balls in the air.”
When the grass was still visible, the Jeffs used their precise short-passing game to slice through the Bowdoin defense, taking a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes.

The Polar Bears crept back into the match, however, knotting it at 2-2 as field conditions deteriorated in the second half. After the Jeffs survived several anxious moments in the final 45 minutes, Nathan ’13 netted the golden goal 1:25 into the overtime session to secure an unforgettable 3-2 win.

Amidst the intense, heart-stopping action, the winter storm produced other bizarre developments. Dressed in white uniforms as the home team, the Jeffs eventually put on bright orange pennies to avoid blending in with the snow. To help the beleaguered officiating crew, workers incessantly shoveled parts of the field to keep the sidelines visible.
Amherst started the match firing on all cylinders, as the Jeffs scored just 3:16 into the contest. Mel Steir ’15 played a cross from the left flank, allowing team-leading scorer Sarah Duffy ’14 to redirect the ball past Bowdoin goalkeeper Maddie Lane.
Buoyed by the early score, the attack-minded Jeffs stunned the Polar Bears with a second goal just five minutes later. Lane blocked a hard shot from Chloe McKenzie ’14, but Stier corralled the rebound and sidestepped a defender before firing the ball into the net.

Amherst dominated the rest of the first half, building a 10-1 advantage in shots, but the Polar Bears capitalized on their lone scoring chance to make things interesting.

With just 1:49 remaining on the clock in the first half, the Jeffs committed a foul in the 18-yard box, and Bowdoin netted the ensuing penalty shot to cut the lead to 2-1.

With snowfall intensifying in the second half, the Polar Bears tied the score in the 56th minute, and the Jeffs suddenly found themselves in a life-or-death struggle.

Both teams slogged and slipped on the snow for long stretches, but the final minutes of regulation provided thrilling action. Bowdoin’s Celeste Swain nearly put the Polar Bears ahead, but Horwitz delivered a crucial point-blank save to preserve the deadlock.

In the 86th minute, Duffy came inches away from scoring the game-winner, but her shot ricocheted off the crossbar. To add to the drama, both Amherst and Bowdoin had a goal called back in the last 10 minutes.

After generating a slew of scoring chances in the last few minutes, the Jeffs finally broke through in overtime. Nathan scored 85 seconds into the extra session, sending the Amherst bench into a state of euphoria and relief.

The Jeffs will host No. 5 seed Wesleyan in the NESCAC semifinals this Saturday, while the other semifinal features Middlebury and Williams. The championship match is on Sunday.

“We beat Wesleyan 3-0 in our regular season game [at Homecoming], but that has no meaning in the playoffs,” Nathan said. “No matter who the opponent, the NESCAC semifinal is going to be a battle.”