Men’s Soccer Garners League Title With Home Wins Over Bowdoin and Hamilton
Issue   |   Fri, 11/11/2016 - 00:05

The Amherst men’s soccer team will head into the national tournament this weekend, looking to build on their 2015 championship title. The purple and white became the 2016 NESCAC champions after beating both Bowdoin and Hamilton, in the semifinals and finals respectively, on Hitchcock field this past weekend Nov. 5-6.

Consistent with the emerging trend of this year’s squad, Amherst overcame the Polar Bears in the concluding minutes of the semi-final game. After a scoreless first half, in which Amherst dominated the action, Will Herman gave Bowdoin a thoroughly unexpected lead in the 75th minute of regulation. With only 15 minutes left to play, Herman looked as though he would be the hero of the match and the Polar Bears seemed to be on their way to a shocking upset over number-one seeded Amherst.

However, the purple and white are no stranger to these seemingly insurmountable odds, having come back against Massachusetts Institute of Technology in eerily similar circumstances. Yet again, Amherst managed to find the back of the net twice within the final 10 minutes of the game to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

In the 80th minute, senior defender Justin Aoyama ripped a shot from 40 yards out. Misjudging the ball in the air, a Bowdoin defender redirected Aoyama’s shot into the back of the Polar Bear’s net, knotting the game at one and firmly swinging the matchup back in favor of the hosts.

Making the most of the purple and white’s newfound momentum, Weller Hlinomaz ’18 put away the game winner a mere two minutes later. After receiving a pass at the top of the box from senior captain Chris Martin, Hlinomaz found the back of the Bowdoin net with a low, driven shot, his eighth on the season. With the win, Amherst advanced to NESCAC final, where they would face rival Hamilton.

The first half of the final match was highly competitive, as both Amherst and Hamilton continued to create quality chances. However, it was Amherst who notched the first goal of the game. The purple and white were awarded a free kick in the closing minutes of the first half, and Bryce Ciambella ’17 sent a long ball into the Hamilton box. Luke Nguyen ’19 found the ball amidst the scrum that ensued and fired a shot past Hamilton’s Linds Cadwell with only seconds to spare before the halftime whistle.
Hungry to find the back of the net once again, Nguyen came out hard in the second half and notched his second goal of the match in the 50th minute. Once again capitalizing on a set piece from Ciambella, Nguyen got on the end of a corner kick and met the ball with his forehead, sending it into the back of the net. This two-goal effort from Nguyen, who is recently returning to the field after an injury, earned him NESCAC player of the week honors.

It was Hlinomaz who extended Amherst’s lead to three in the 65th minute. After beating his defender in a one on one battle, he ripped a shot top shelf from 35 yards out. The goal was Hlinomaz’s second of the weekend and eighth overall on the season, bringing him into a tie with Ciambella for the most on the team and helping to secure the program’s fifth NESCAC title and fourth in the past five years.

The purple and white now look to defend their 2015 national title in this year’s NCAA tournament. Having recieved a first-round bye due to their status as conference champions, they will play the winner of Daniel Webster College vs. Worcester State University on their home turf on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 1:00 p.m.