Men's Soccer Retains Top Spot in NESCAC
Issue   |   Tue, 09/30/2014 - 22:53
Office of Public Affairs
Senior captain Gabriel Wirz has one goal on the season.

With two games this past weekend, Amherst men’s soccer remained unbeaten on the season and extended their NESCAC unbeaten streak to 26 games. The weekend consisted of a 1-1 draw at Tufts on Saturday and a 1-0 victory over Bates on Sunday. Seven games into the season, the Jeffs stand at 5-0-2 overall and 4-0-2 in the NESCAC.

The Jumbos struck first against the Jeffs on Saturday, marking the first time in three weeks that the Jeffs trailed against an opponent.

On a pass directed from Tufts midfielder Nate Majumder near the 18-yard box, Jumbo midfielder Jason Kayne found the top right corner of the net. While Majumder was credited with the assist on the play, Maxime Hoppenot found Majumder by the top of the 18-yard box on a nice set-up that helped put Tufts up 1-0.

The Jeffs could not be deterred for long, however, as a Tufts handball upon an Amherst offensive attack set the Jeffs up with a penalty kick. Midfielder Milton Rico ’15 stepped up to drilled the ball into the net to even the game.

Prior to the halftime break, Amherst looked to continue to add to the scoring but narrowly missed on two legitimate opportunities. The score remained level at one apiece after 90 minutes of regulation play.

In the overtime, Amherst staved off several attacks from Tufts, as the Jumbos had five shots on goal in the two overtime periods, while the Jeffs only managed a single shot.

Overall, the Jeffs earned a tie in what very could well be a preview for a potential NESCAC postseason matchup.

“Tufts is a very strong team, and we did not have our best day. We went down early and had to battle our way back into the game. It’s always difficult playing away, especially since it was their homecoming weekend,” said junior striker Greg Singer. “A tie was not the result we were looking for, but we have to learn from our mistakes and move forward.”

The following day, the Jeffs came out firing against Bates. Amherst had an 11-3 shot advantage in the first half but were unable to push a goal during the first period. The Jeffs also had a sizable 5-2 edge on corners over the first 45 minutes of action — one of which almost led to a goal. A header from Singer that originated off a corner kick hit off the crossbar during the first half, amounting to a key opportunity in the first half.

Just about a minute into the second half, the Jeffs finally put a goal on the board. Junior forward Nico Pascual-Leone stole the ball off a Bates throw-in, dribbled down the pitch and found sophomore forward Chris Martin on a great cross. Martin finished the cross and sent the ball into the back of the net to give the Jeffs a 1-0 lead. His goal was his second on the season and 10th of his career in 28 games. Pascual-Leone notched his second assist of the season giving him the team lead in points (six) for the Jeffs in 2014.

Amherst dominated in shots attempts with a 26-8 edge on the Bobcats. The Jeffs would not put another goal on the board after Martin’s goal, only having one score to show in their 1-0 victory. Amherst put a whopping 10 shots on goal, nine of which Bobcats goalie Sam Polito ended up saving.

On the Jeffs’ defensive side, goalie Thomas Bull ’16 and the Amherst defense combined to give the Jeffs their third shutout in seven games this season, all of which have come in 1-0 NESCAC victories.

“The Bates win was a real team effort,” said midfielder Tommy Haskel ’16. “Playing-back to-back games is not easy for anybody. With that being said, the grind is something we pride ourselves on. A lot of different guys stepped up on Sunday to earn the win. We are improving as a team everyday we step onto the field and we will take the positives from Sunday and build on them.”

The Jeffs are slated to play three games in the next six days. Up first, the Jeffs travel to Ludlow, Mass. on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. matchup against the Western New England Golden Bears at Lusitano Stadium. On the season, Western New England is 7-4-1, with its most recent victory coming in 1-0 fashion against Springfield College. Last season, the Jeffs defeated the Golden Bears in late October on Hitchcock Field, after Pascual-Leone scored to put the Jeffs ahead and secure the victory with less than two minutes remaining in the contest.

On Saturday, Oct. 4, the Jeffs will take on Hamilton (4-2-1 overall and 1-2-1 in NESCAC play) in a 2:30 p.m. matchup on Hitchcock Field. Last year, the Jeffs played the Continentals twice. During the regular season, Amherst tied Hamilton 1-1 on the road before exacting revenge on the Continentals in a 4-1 victory in the NESCAC Quarterfinals in early November. In Amherst’s last meeting against Hamilton, Martin had two goals, while Singer and midfielder Andrew Orozco ’17 also added scores.

Next Tuesday, Amherst will face off against Elms College in another 7 p.m. matchup on the road.

While the Jeffs have a packed schedule over the next week, the team is only focused on putting forth their best effort against Western New England.

“We can only really afford to think about [Western New England] right now,” said midfielder Forest Sisk ’17. “Midweek games are tough because they can be easily overlooked. Although we’re undefeated, we still have another gear to shift into before we get to where we want to be. Western New England will be a great test for us.”

Currently, the Jeffs stand atop the NESCAC conference, just ahead of Tufts and Wesleyan. With half the regular season already in the record books, Amherst looks to end on a high note. The team will play four more NESCAC contests as well as four out-of-conference games. Should the Jeffs keep up their high level of play, they will be in position to defend their NESCAC Championship and become four-time conference champions.

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