Undefeated Women’s Soccer Shoots Past Williams
Issue   |   Fri, 10/21/2011 - 18:35
Photo courtesy of Kate Berry ’12
Amanda Brisco ’14 has contributed to an offense that leads the NESCAC in scoring (2.50 goals per game). The Jeffs also rank first in team defense (.375 goals allowed per game).

Last year, the women’s soccer team struggled to an 8-7-2 record, failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and ended its season with a tough 1-0 loss to Williams in the NESCAC Championship Game.

The Jeffs vowed to change the script this season. So far, the results have been spectacular.

Bolstered by the strength of an explosive offense and stingy back-line, Amherst carries an unblemished record (12-0-0, 8-0-0 NESCAC) into Saturday’s tilt against Wesleyan. “I think we’re playing more as a team this year,” Coach Jen Hughes said. “Players are playing simple, playing the way they face, and then moving off the ball for each other.”

The Jeffs avenged last year’s loss to the Ephs with a resounding 3-0 road win in Williamstown on Oct. 8. Williams out-shot Amherst by a 26-14 margin and controlled possession for much of the match, but the Jeffs were the more dynamic team in the attacking third, creating better scoring chances from close range.

“We did not have our best game against Williams, but were able to win it in the 18’s [18-yard boxes]” captain Jill Kochanek ’12 said. “Offensively, we created some great scoring opportunities and finished our chances; defensively, we kept them out of our 18-yard box so most of their chances were less dangerous.”

Amped up for the big match, the Jeffs quickly put the hosts on their heels, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute. Mel Stier ’15 played a through-ball from center midfield, allowing Chloe McKenzie ’14 to run onto the ball. McKenzie then surged past a nearby Williams defender before chipping the ball over the charging Ephs’ goalkeeper.

Fifteen minutes later, the Jeffs extended the lead to 2-0 on a corner kick opportunity. Kochanek got her head on a swerving cross, leading to a scrum on the goal mouth before McKenzie booted the ball into the back of the net, her second goal of the game.

Williams racked up the offensive pressure in the second half, narrowly missing a series of opportunities. The Ephs appeared to score their first goal in the 74th minute, but the tally was overturned by a timely offsides call. In the 83rd minute, Williams received a penalty kick after an Amherst handball in the box, but the PK effort rattled off the post.

Buoyed by the penalty kick miss, the Jeffs pushed forward to put the dagger in the coffin. Amanda Brisco ’14, who had hit the crossbar just minutes before, raced down the left flank before unleashing a low tracer toward net. The Williams goalkeeper blocked the shot, but Sarah Duffy ’14 was there to bury the rebound.

While the victory had huge implications for the NESCAC standings — second-place Williams is currently 6-1-1, five points behind Amherst — the Jeffs also exacted retribution for the soul-crushing playoff defeat last season. “The game was a huge emotional victory for us after losing to them in the NESCAC championships,” Kochanek said. “Last year, our team felt like the result fell short of the way we played and so we approached this game feeling like we had something prove.”

After Williams, the Jeffs avoided a letdown performance, securing victories over Eastern Connecticut State, Colby and Bowdoin over the next two weeks.

The Jeffs eked out a 2-1 victory over Eastern Connecticut State last Wednesday, reversing the tables in 2011 after the Warriors beat Amherst 2-1 at Gooding Field last year. Ellen Ingebritsen ’14 contributed two assists — her first two points of the season — and Emily Little ’13 scored the game-winning goal to break a 1-1 tie in the 77th minute.

The team then ventured into Maine for a weekend doubleheader, pummeling Colby 5-1 before prevailing 2-1 over Bowdoin on Sunday. Against the Mules, the Jeffs scored twice in the opening 20 minutes to take a 2-0 halftime lead. Amherst really opened the floodgates early in the second half, netting three goals from the 51st to 62nd minutes en route to the blowout victory.

Despite the successful results against Williams, Eastern Conn. and Colby, some players said they believe the team could have performed at a higher level. “We played a better game against Colby, but still not at the level we know that we are capable of. Colby was a good step in the right direction, but we need to keep improving,” Kochanek said.

The Jeffs came out flying in the opening 45 minutes against Bowdoin the next day, playing their “best half yet this season,” according to Kochanek. Amherst took an early lead in the 14th minute, when Sarah Duffy’s cross found an unmarked Stier, who rocketed a close-range volley into the net.

Amherst dominated the rest of the half, outshooting the Polar Bears by a decisive 15-4 margin, but struggled to finish prime scoring opportunities. “We came out aggressive, but composed and controlled the pace of the game,” Kochanek said. “Although we should have capitalized on a few more of our chances, Bowdoin was a huge turning point for us.”

The game was more balanced in the second half, and Bowdoin tied the score in the 54th minute. The match remained deadlocked at 1-1 through regulation and the first overtime period, as both sides struggled to generate offense.

Amherst seized its chance early in the second overtime period, when Little dribbled into the 18-yard box and induced a critical Bowdoin foul. Kathryn Nathan ’13 calmly slotted the ball past the diving goalkeeper to give Amherst a dramatic victory.

The Jeffs continued their undefeated run by dismantling Keene State 3-1 on Wednesday. The Owls entered the contest on a five-game winning streak, but found themselves overwhelmed by Amherst’s relentless ball movement and defensive pressure. The Owls grabbed an early 1-0 lead after 18 minutes, but the Jeffs responded with two goals in a span of 50 seconds (Duffy at 26:17, McKenzie at 27:07).

Holding a 2-1 halftime lead, the Jeffs dominated the second stanza, holding a 10-2 edge in shots. Nathan added an insurance goal in the 68th minute to propel Amherst to its 12th straight victory.

The Jeffs can finish the regular season undefeated with wins over Wesleyan (at Homecoming) and Connecticut College (on Wednesday). Before this year, the program’s longest undefeated streak to open the season was seven games (in 1979), but the Jeffs have shattered that mark.

Amherst clinches the top seed in the NESCAC tournament with a win or draw against the Cardinals.