In what could prove to be one of their toughest weekends of the season, the women’s soccer team emerged undefeated from a pair of hard-fought NESCAC bouts. The Jeffs beat Hamilton 2-0 at home on Saturday and drew 0-0 at Middlebury the following day.
Against Hamilton, the Lady Jeffs started slowly and were held scoreless for the first 76 minutes. While the possession and the chances went both ways, Hamilton seemed to generate the better of both, including a shot that hit the post late in the second half. Unfazed by the pressure, the Jeffs took the lead when Amanda Brisco ’14 put the home side on top with an unassisted goal in the 76th minute.
Despite her impressive individual efforts earlier, Brisco seemed unsatisfied with the one-goal lead. Less than a minute after her goal, Brisco’s cross found the head of Maggie Belnap ’15 to give their Jeffs the second goal — a spectacular diving header into the top corner — and send them on their way to victory.
Ever the perfectionist, Coach Jen Hughes thought the Jeffs could improve upon their offensive play.
“We played tight against Hamilton,” she said. “The first goal allowed us to relax and start playing our game. And that led to a quick second goal. Going forward, we have to figure out a way to be intense and relaxed so we can play to our standard right from the start.”
The team left for Middlebury shortly after the game and slept in a hotel near the Panthers’ home in Vermont. The game was a clash between two perennial NESCAC contenders, and the Jeffs were prepared for a battle.
Unfortunately for the visitors, though, it would be another slow start. In just the 10th minute, Middlebury’s Scarlett Kirk hit the crossbar — her first of three efforts that hit the woodwork in the game.
Though challenged defensively, the Jeffs managed to find chances of their own.
First-year Jessy Hale ’16 nearly netted a free kick, Chloe McKenzie ’14 had her shot cleared off the line, and Belnap almost scored off a rebound, but after a full 90 minutes neither side could find the back of the net.
Two 15-minute overtime periods later, the Jeffs and Panthers ended deadlocked at 0-0.
Coach Hughes described the game as “pretty even” and thought the draw was reflective of the game played. “Middlebury had the better of the first half, but the momentum shifted, particularly late in the game. It could have gone either way.”
The story of the weekend was the same as it has been all season: defense. The Lord Jeffs have yet to allow a goal on the season, a streak that now spans five games.
Entering the season, the biggest question mark appeared to be the defense; instead, the back-line is keeping their team in games and ensuring the Jeffs pick up points regardless of whether or not they score.
“Our backs really shut their forwards down,” said captain Kate Sisk ’14. Hughes agreed, calling the defense “lights out.”
If the defense continues their stellar play and the offense regains its scoring touch from last year, the Jeffs will continue to be the team to beat in their conference.
Amherst continues NESCAC play Thursday, hosting Trinity before traveling to Tufts for an important away test on Saturday.