Men’s Soccer Falls to Brandeis on PKs in Sweet 16, Loses Chance to Defend Title
Issue   |   Tue, 11/29/2016 - 23:44

The 2016 season came to a heartbreaking end for the Amherst men’s soccer team last weekend, as the purple and white fell to Brandeis University in penalty kicks in the NCAA Sweet 16. After battling back from a one goal deficit and dominating the stat sheet, Amherst was unable to get the result that they deserved and advance in tournament play.

Both teams looked threatening in the opening minutes of the match, with each side recording three shots in the first 15 minutes. However, it was Brandeis who got on the board first, as Stephen Depietto combined with Evan Jastremski for a goal in the 18th minute. Getting on the end of a far-post cross from Depietto, Jastremski took an attacking first touch and fired the ball into the back of the Amherst net.
Unable to capitalize on key opportunities late in the first half, the purple and white were still in search of the equalizer as the halftime whistle blew. The revitalizing goal came in the 56th minute, as senior captain Chris Martin was able to find Fikayo Ajayi ’19 at the top of the box. After taking the ball down the right flank and beating his defender, Martin sent a ball to Ajayi, who slotted a well-placed shot into the bottom left corner of the Brandeis net.

The remainder of the second half went scoreless and the game headed into overtime. Amherst recorded the only four shots of the first overtime period, but once again, they were unable to convert their chances. With only 6:30 remaining in the second period of overtime, Kieran Bellew ‘18 beat his man and found himself with an open shot at the top of the box. Bellew put a great shot on goal, but it banged off the right post.

After two periods of overtime, the game was to be decided by penalty kicks. Coming up big for the Judges, Brandeis keeper Ben Woodhouse stopped three of Amherst’s four attempts and secured the win, ending the purple and white’s NCAA run in the process.

While this result was undoubtedly disappointing, Amherst finishes the season with an impressive overall record of 17-1-2. Led by an incredible group of seniors, the team found a way to perform under the unprecedented pressure that comes with being reigning National Champions. “Part of winning a National Championship is defending it, and I thought we defended it hard and defended it well,” head coach Justin Serpone said.

The purple and white will bid goodbye to an incredibly talented senior class that has seen Amherst become one of the preeminent Division III soccer programs in the country. In addition to losing Martin, who was third on the team with eight goals, the team will also say farewell to both the team’s highest and fourth highest goal-scorers, seniors Bryce Ciambella and Jackson Lenhart.

Also graduating is Andrew Orosco, the purple and white’s rock in the center of the pitch, as well as the entirety of the dominant Amherst defense, which includes Cameron Bean, Justin Ayoama, Rohan Sood and Cameron Hardington. Amherst will also miss the senior leadership provided by David Lander. Forest Sisk and Douglass Jamison.