Men’s Soccer Kicks Off 2015 Season With Two Decisive Wins
Issue   |   Wed, 09/16/2015 - 00:30

Men’s soccer began the 2015 season impressively, scoring five goals over two games to move to 2-0 on the season and 1-0 in the NESCAC.

Less than five minutes into the Jeffs’ season opener on the road against New England College, Amherst’s offensive attack began to impose its will on the Pilgrims’ defense.

The Jeffs almost scored off a header from junior midfielder Andrew Orozco about four minutes into the contest, but the Pilgrims’ goalkeeper was there to make the save. But less than a minute later, senior striker Nico Pascual-Leone assisted forward Chris Martin ’17 on Amherst’s first goal of the season to put the Jeffs up 1-0 at the 4:52 mark.

For the Pilgrims, midfielder Ronsard Masamba looked their most lively threat. He fired a pair of shots on net about halfway through the opening period of play, but Senior goalkeeper Thomas Bull proved up to the challenge.

With 15 minutes left in the half, Pascual-Leone almost responded with an acrobatic attempt that the New England goalkeeper saved.

Forward Aziz Khan ’18 then dribbled down the left side of the box and laced a shot towards the far corner. His attempt beat the goalkeeper but went just wide of the post.

Heading into the halftime break, the Jeffs had a 10-8 edge over the Pilgrims in shot attempts and held a 1-0 lead.

The shot differential between the two teams would grow as the Amherst offense continued to add to its lead while dominating play during the second half.

About five minutes into the second half, Orozco put one past the New England College goalkeeper, off an assist from Martin, to give the Jeffs a 2-0 lead.

In short order, Martin further added to Amherst’s lead when he scored his second goal of the season to put the Jeffs up 3-0, courtesy of an assist from midfielder Bryce Ciambella ’17.

But, the Jeffs’ offense was not finished yet. Just over 10 minutes into the second half, the Jeffs scored for the third time in the span of about six minutes, giving themselves a commanding 4-0 lead. This time, Martin and Ciambella linked up for the second time, with Ciambella’s second assist facilitating Martin’s third goal of the game.

Remarkably, less than two-thirds of the way through Amherst’s opening contest, Martin had already notched a hat trick and added an assist (for a whopping total of seven points in one game), playing an instrumental role in each of Amherst’s four goals.

Over the final third of the contest, the Jeffs would preserve their 4-0 lead and hand the Pilgrims (who entered play against the Jeffs with a 3-0 record) their first loss of the 2015 season. Overall, the Jeffs finished with 19 shots, and 11 shots on goal while the Pilgrims had 10 total shots, three of which were directed on net.

Defensively, Bull and the Amherst defensive unit was stout. earned its first shutout of the year, as Bull notched three saves in the process.

Coach Justin Serpone was pleased with his team’s efforts.

Against New England College, “the main goal … was to get a shutout and we were able to do that,” Serpone said. “New England College is a good team that will have a great season — it wouldn’t surprise me if they were an NCAA team when it’s all said and done.”

Serpone also highlighted Martin’s individual effort, noting that “Chris joins some great company” among Amherst players who have recorded a hat trick during Serpone’s tenure at Amherst, including Jake Duker ’09 (September 2008 against Suffolk), James Mooney ’12 (November 2010 in the NCAA tournament against St. Lawrence) and Bubba Van Wie ’15 (October 2013 in the regular season finale against Trinity).

This past Saturday, the Jeffs welcomed Bowdoin to Hitchcock Field for Amherst’s home opener and first NESCAC game of the season in a rematch of the 2014 NESCAC championship game. The game proved to be particularly close and remained scoreless for the majority of play, continuing the trend of scoreless competition in matchups between Amherst and Bowdoin, as both teams failed to score after two overtime periods in the 2014 NESCAC championship game.

Following the first half, the Jeffs and Polar Bears were knotted at zero, as the Amherst defense remained strong and limited the Polar Bears to a pair of shots in the first half. The Jeffs had six shots in the first period and three corner kicks, but were unable to convert on any of these scoring opportunities.

In the second half, the NESCAC rivals traded scoring opportunities, with both teams finishing with seven shots in the second half.

With less than ten minutes remaining in regulation in a scoreless game, forward Jackson Lenhart ’17 sent a tremendous corner kick into the box, which junior defender Cameron Bean headed into the top corner of the net, above the reach of the leaping Bowdoin goalkeeper, to give the Jeffs a 1-0 lead late in a very tightly contested match.

In the final stretch, the Jeffs defense was able to hold off a late attack from the Polar Bears, as Bowdoin had four shot attempts in the closing minutes of the game. With three minutes remaining in regulation, an Amherst foul just outside of the Jeffs’ box gave Bowdoin an opportunity to equalize.

Bowdoing senior forward Andrew Jones put the free kick over the wall and dipping towards the right post. Scrambling to his right, Bull made a spectacular diving save on the strike to preserve the lead for the Jeffs.

With a 1-0 victory over Bowdoin, the Jeffs had the chance to enact some revenge on the Polar Bears, who won the NESCAC championship last year in penalty kicks, after a 0-0 draw through two overtimes, on Hitchcock Field.

On Wednesday night the Jeffs will face off against Western New England (2-3 in 2015) at 4:30 p.m. on the road. Last season against the Golden Bears, the Jeffs trailed for most of the game.Western New England scored a goal early in the first half and held a 1-0 lead midway through the second half. But Amherst eventually notched two late goals in that contest, defeating their non-conference opponent.

“They were beating us for most of our match last year and we needed some heroics to pull out a win,” Serpone said. “I expect more of the same this season.”

On Saturday, Sept. 19, the Jeffs continue NESCAC play with a home matchup against Middlebury (2-0 and 1-0 in the NESCAC) at 2:30 p.m.

Last season, the Jeffs and Panthers played to a 1-1 draw, as both teams scored late goals in regulation to force the game into overtime. Panthers’ forward Greg Conrad ’17 will be a key player to watch and will demand significant attention from the Amherst defense in this contest, as he enters 2015 as the reigning NESCAC Player of the Year, a first-team All Region honoree, and a third-team All American after finishing his 2014 campaign with eight goals and six assists (for a total of 22 points).

On Sunday, Sept. 20, the Jeffs will face Elms College on the road at 2 p.m. Last season, the Jeffs beat Elms 3-0. Bean scored a pair of goals and sophomore forward Kieran Bellew added a goal in the victory. Elms is 1-3 on the season and in the middle of a three-game losing streak after earning a 3-2 win against Rhode Island College in the team’s season opener.