This past weekend, the men’s soccer team traveled to Maine and continued their winning ways with a pair of NESCAC victories. By beating Colby, 2-0, and Bates, 3-0, the second-ranked Jeffs extended their winning streak to 13 games and now stand at 13-0-0 on the season and 8-0-0 in NESCAC play.
On Saturday afternoon against Colby, the Jeffs held a 6-1 shot advantage over the Mules in first-half action, but were unable to convert on any of these opportunities in the opening period.
More than halfway through the second half, the game was still scoreless, as the Jeffs continued to generate scoring chances.
In the 72nd minute of play, however, the Jeffs finally struck, as senior forward Nico Pascual-Leone scored a picturesque goal on an overhead bicycle kick that found its way into the back of the net. The phenomenal play was certainly one of the highlights of the season for the Jeffs thus far, comparable to Amherst’s dramatic game-winning goals in double-overtime earlier this season.
About 15 minutes later, the Jeffs put the game away with a late goal that doubled their lead. On this play, an Amherst shot blocked by Mules defender Chandler Smith ’18 went high into the air, at which point senior striker Greg Singer won the ball and headed it over the reach of goalie and into the back of the net. While Singer picked up his fifth score of the season on this late goal, forward Aidan Murray ’18 was credited with his second assist of the season (and his second assist in the past three games after picking up one against Hamilton two games prior).
After beating the Mules, Amherst had a quick turnaround, taking on Bates the following afternoon.
Pascual-Leone once again gave the Jeffs a 1-0 lead, this time with a goal midway through the first half. Pascual-Leone’s goal was the only score of the half, but both teams had many scoring chances, as the teams combined for 19 shots in the half — 13 for the Jeffs and six for the Bobcats.
In the second half, Pascual-Leone and the Jeffs took control. Just over five minutes into the second period, Singer and junior forward Jackson Lehnhart set up Pascual-Leone for his second goal of the contest.
Just over 20 minutes later, Pascual-Leone struck again in the 72nd minute off of Lehnhart’s second assist of the match.
Pascual-Leone then added a late third goal, his tenth of the season, and the Jeffs held Bobcats scoreless over the rest of the game for a 3-0 victory and another shutout.
Following Sunday’s win against Bates, Pascual-Leone became the second Amherst player in 2015 to notch a hat trick.
For his efforts this weekend, Pascual-Leone was recognized as the NESCAC Player of the Week. Pascual-Leone is the second Amherst player to receive the recognition during the 2015 season; after Amherst’s victory over Williams, Singer was recognized as the NESCAC Player of the Week for a performance in which he netted the game-tying goal towards the end of regulation and the game-winning goal with just seconds remaining in double overtime to secure a 2-1 victory for the Jeffs.
At this point, Pascual-Leone leads the NESCAC with 10 goals (three clear of second place) and is second in the conference with 23 points overall, one point shy of Middlebury’s Adam Glaser, who has seven goals and 10 assists on the season.
Regarding Pascual-Leone’s contributions to the soccer program, Serpone praised his efforts on the field, but has been even more pleased with his impact upon the broader school community during his Amherst career. “Nico is a great player, but an even better person,” Serpone said. “I’m most proud, not of his soccer, but of his impact on the culture of our team, and the campus as a whole, over his four years at Amherst.”
Through 13 games, the Jeffs are outscoring opponents 32-2 and averaging 2.5 goals per contest. While the Amherst offense was impressive in back-to-back contests this weekend, goalkeeper Thomas Bull ’16 and the Amherst defense continued their standout play.
After holding both opponents scoreless this weekend, the team has now recorded 11 shutouts. Bull easily leads the NESCAC with a 0.15 goals against average and a .952 save percentage. The Jeffs are now riding a six-game shutout streak after surrendering goals in back-to-back games earlier on this season.
On Saturday at 2:30 p.m., Amherst will welcome Wesleyan (7-4-1 and 3-3-1 in the NESCAC) to Hitchcock Field on Homecoming for the team’s final home game of the regular season. Heading into this final home match, the Jeffs have already locked up the top seed in the NESCAC tournament and home field advantage for the event. However, this does not mean the Wesleyan game is meaningless. Against the Cardinals, the Jeffs will be focused on enacting revenge on a team that beat them, 2-1, in overtime last year.
“Saturday should be electric from an energy perspective,” Serpone said. “Wesleyan is a very good team who beat us at their Homecoming last year. It will take a total team effort — with the support of all of our great fans — to return the favor.”
A win on Saturday for Amherst will not remove any incentives for the Jeffs to continue their winning ways, as Amherst would stand one win away from a perfect regular season. Their final regular season match is set for Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Hartford, Connecticut against Trinity (5-5-3 overall and 2-5-1 in the NESCAC). The Bantams will be hungry for a positive result as they hope to sneak into the NESCAC Tournament with a strong finish to the regular season.
After taking on the Bantams, the Jeffs will then welcome the eighth-seeded team in the NESCAC Tournament to Hitchcock Field on Saturday, Oct. 31 for the NESCAC Quarterfinals.