Women's Soccer Suffers Heartbreaking Loss in 3-2 Penalty Kick Shootout
Issue   |   Wed, 11/18/2015 - 01:48

The Amherst women’s soccer team captured a win in the first round of the NCAA tournament before suffering a season-ending loss to 11th-ranked Brandeis University (15-2-4) in a game that was decided in penalty kicks. The purple and white conclude the 2015 season ranked 16th in the nation and with an overall record of 11-3-3.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have played with this team,” captain Jessy Hale ’16 said. “Every player brought something different on the field, but more importantly for our team chemistry. This truly is a special group that was a privilege to be a part of.”

On Saturday in the first round of NCAA tournament action, Ashlyn Heller ’17 led Amherst to a 1-0 win over Colby-Sawyer (13-4-2). Though Amherst controlled possession and dictated the tempo of play for the entire first half, they struggled to find the back of the net. The purple and white outshot the Chargers 18-4 and held a 15-3 advantage in corner kicks.

“We were really proud of how we played against Colby-Sawyer”, Hale said. “Across the field we were all on the same page and had the same goal.”

Caleigh Plaut ‘19, who normally anchored Amherst’s defense, moved to midfield for the tournament. With five minutes remaining in the first half, she gave the Chargers a scare when she fired a shot to the right side from the top of the box. Colby-Sawyer’s keeper, Karley Hamilton, was able to make a sensational diving save and keep Amherst off the board.

Amherst kept up the offensive pressure, and Hale and Haley Zwecker ’16 nearly converted on two scoring opportunities.
Early in the second half, the purple and white earned an indirect kick inside the box because a Colby-Sawyer player fell on top of the ball. Hannah Guzzi ’18 delivered a shot, but again, Hamilton was there to make the save.

Heller’s goal came in the 79th minute when Emily Hester ’17 crossed a ball that found the feet of Caleigh Plaut ’19. Plaut, a first team all-NESCAC selection and one of two first years in the conference who garnered the award, was able to deflect the ball to Heller who was able to finish. During the play, the Colby-Sawyer defense mobbed Plaut and Heller so that onlookers were unable to see who was responsible for the goal.

Amherst first team all-NESCAC goalkeeper Holly Burwick ’16 registered five saves en route to her ninth shutout of the season. With the victory, Amherst advanced to the second round of NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season.

Returning to Hitchcock Field on Sunday afternoon, Amherst played Brandeis University to a draw after two overtime periods. Amherst’s fate was determined in penalty kicks where they were finally edged 3-2 in the hard-fought loss. Brandeis just barely recorded the advantage in shots and shots on goal, 18-17 and 9-8 respectively. Amherst had 12 corner kicks compared to the Judges’ one.
Brandeis jumped out to an early lead, notching a goal just four minutes into action. Amherst’s Megan Kim ’16 evened the score at 1-1 with 15 minutes remaining in regulation. Kim corralled the ball in a mass of people inside the box and was able to convert on the opportunity. With neither team unable to score in two overtime periods, the game went into penalty kicks.

Amherst keeper Burwick stopped the first of Brandeis’ penalty kick chances, but the Judges were able to convert on the next three attempts. Kim drilled her penalty kick into the back of the goal to put Amherst at a 1-0 advantage, but then Amherst had back-to-back misses. Heller responded, making her penalty kick and tying the score at 2-2. Brandeis converted one more and Amherst missed its final chance and fell to the Judges 3-2.

Plaut led the Amherst offense with a team-high three shots on goal. Burwick made eight saves, including one phenomenal save when she punched the ball above the net with 15:15 left in the first half.

Although the season has come to an end, the 2015 Amherst women’s soccer team was nothing short of incredible to watch. The senior class consisting of Burwick, Kim, Rachael Abernethy, Zwecker and Hale will be remembered for their humble leadership, determination and will to win on the field. Though the team earned their success through countless hours of hard work, they also appreciate the support and contributions of dedicated fans.

In its 15 NCAA tournament appearances, Amherst has compiled an overall record of 26-10-5. This season, the impressive Amherst team only allowed 10 goals.

“Our motto this year was ‘No Doubt’,” Hale added. “We embodied this phrase on a daily basis because we believed in ourselves and had ‘No Doubt” of what we were capable of.”