No. 18 Women's Soccer Nets Two Tight Victories
Issue   |   Wed, 09/28/2011 - 02:50
Kate Berry '12
Sarah Duffy ’14 scored a goal with 12.8 seconds left in overtime to lift Amherst to a 2-1 victory over Hamilton. The breakout striker leads the Jeffs with seven goals this season.

After romping past opponents in its first three matches, the women’s soccer team eked out two nail-biting victories last week to improve to 5-0-0 (3-0-0 NESCAC). The Jeffs upset No. 15 Springfield 1-0 last Wednesday before escaping with a 2-1 overtime win over Hamilton on Saturday. The two wins propelled the Jeffs to No. 18 in the national rankings.

For the first time in five years, the women’s soccer team has started its season with five consecutive wins. Since 1979, no team in program history has opened the season at 6-0-0, but the Jeffs could equal the mark with a road victory at Trinity this evening.

After exacting sweet revenge in a 2-0 victory over Middlebury last Sunday (Sept. 18), the Jeffs dominated No.15 Springfield in the first half on Wednesday. Pushing forward at a blistering tempo, the Jeffs enjoyed an early flurry of scoring opportunities, forcing the Springfield goalkeeper to make a few tough saves. Amherst came inches away from grabbing the lead at around the 10th minute, when first-year Mel Stier’s shot ricocheted off the left post.

After narrowly missing several other quality scoring chances, the Jeffs capitalized on their first-half dominance with a goal in the 39th minute. Reigning NESCAC Player of the Week Sarah Duffy ’14 found Kathryn Nathan ’13 at the top of the 18-yard box; Nathan then drilled a shot off the bottom of the crossbar to give Amherst a 1-0 lead.

Head coach Jen Hughes said that the Jeffs performed brilliantly in the opening 45 minutes, thoroughly outplaying a higher-reputed Springfield team. Amherst held decisive advantages in shots (10-2) and corner kicks (6-2). “In the first half, we played with wonderful intensity, we played physical and we moved the ball quickly,” Hughes said.

The pace of the match slowed a bit in the second half, with both teams struggling to generate openings on the offensive end. The tenacious Amherst defense stymied Springfield’s attacking thrusts from start to finish, preserving the 1-0 win — the Jeffs’ fourth consecutive shutout to start the season.

Nonetheless, the coaching staff said that the team’s unremarkable second-half performance left much to be desired. “We let down a little in the second half, so our lesson from this game was that we need to put a full 90 minutes together,” Hughes said.

The Jeffs returned to NESCAC action over the weekend, taking on league newcomer Hamilton. The Continentals had competed in the NESCAC in 1993 and 1994, losing to Amherst badly in both encounters (3-1 and 3-0). This time around, however, the Jeffs found themselves battling a feisty Hamilton side.

The Continentals started the game brightly, gaining an early 1-0 lead (21st minute) when Charlotte Cosgrove unleashed a laser that caromed in off the crossbar from 25 yards out. Amherst had not conceded a single goal in its previous four games this season, as Hamilton’s tally snapped senior goalkeeper Allie Horwitz’s scoreless streak of 376:48 minutes in net.

“We had a slow start against Hamilton,” Hughes said. “Hamilton simply outworked us at the beginning of the first half. We learned that we can’t just show up and win; we have to come to play against every opponent.”

Infused with a new sense of urgency, the Jeffs woke up and improved their level of play, tying the score in the 42nd minute. Duffy the team’s leading scorer with seven goals — fired a shot that was blocked by the Hamilton goalkeeper, but Chloe McKenzie ’14 was there to put home the rebound for her first goal of the season.

The score would remain 1-1 through the second half, and neither team could break the deadlock in the first 19 (of 20) minutes of overtime. As time winded down to the final buzzer, the Jeffs refused to settle for a draw, and desperately pushed forward for a game-winning tally.

With 12.8 seconds left in overtime, Duffy stunned the home crowd with a magnificent goal, dribbling past a series of Hamilton defenders before lifting a shot above the outstretched arms of the Continental goalkeeper, sending the visiting Jeffs into a state of euphoria.

With the overtime victory, Amherst improved its NESCAC record to 3-0-0. The Jeffs find themselves in first place in the conference, two points ahead of Tufts and Williams (each with 2-0-1 records).

The Jeffs continue their league schedule with a tough road game at Trinity (1-0-2) tonight. The Bantams gave the Jeffs fits last season, inflicting a 2-1 defeat at Amherst in the 2010 seniors’ last regular season game. After playing Trinity, the Jeffs will host Tufts on Saturday afternoon.

“Trinity and Tufts are important games for us,” Hughes said. “They are both tough conference opponents, and we need to come to play against them. We haven’t strung a full 90 minutes together yet, and I’m hoping we get closer to a full 90 with each game, starting with Trinity.”