No. 5 Jeffs Open Season With Pair of Away Wins
Issue   |   Tue, 09/11/2012 - 23:36
Megan Robertson '15, Public Affairs Office
Milton Rico '15 goes into the slide

The men’s soccer team opened its season on the right foot last weekend, collecting a pair of shutout wins over Colby-Sawyer (6-0 score) and Bridgewater State (2-0). The Jeffs, ranked No. 5 in the country, will travel to Bates this weekend to begin their NESCAC title defense.

In 2011, the Jeffs also started their season against Colby-Sawyer and Bridgewater State, winning both matches by combined 5-1 score (3-0 against CS, 2-1 vs. Bridgewater). This year, however, the Jeffs won more convincingly.

Under wet, soggy conditions at Colby-Sawyer on Saturday, the Jeffs quickly overwhelmed the hosts with their skill and tenacity. Reigning NESCAC Player of the Year Spencer Noon ’13 scored Amherst’s first three goals, recording the first hat-trick of his collegiate career.

Noon — already Amherst’s all-time scoring leader (38 goals) — tallied his first goal in the 20th minute. Brendan Caslin ’14 delivered a cross from the wing before Alejandro Sucre ’13 flicked it over with his head, allowing Noon to score on the ensuing header. With less than ten minutes remaining in the first half, Noon burned the Colby-Sawyer defense once again, racing onto a through-ball from Milton Rico ’15 before calmly slotting the ball past the goalkeeper to give Amherst a 2-0 lead. Noon completed the hat-trick in the 53rd minute, redirecting a header flick-on from Federico Sucre ’13.

Federico Sucre, Jae Heo ’14 and Max Fikke ’14 added second-half goals to push the Amherst lead to 6-0 by the 70th minute. The Jeffs ended the match with a 25-4 advantage in shots and a 9-1 edge in corner kick opportunities.

“We played pretty well and found a way to wear them down with our pressure,” head coach Justin Serpone said.

On Sunday, the Jeffs faced a tougher test against Bridgewater State. Even though Amherst controlled possession for much of the opening 45 minutes, the Bears kept the Jeffs off the scoreboard in the first half.

After a relatively uninspiring start to the match, the Jeffs elevated their level of play in the second stanza, generating a flurry of early scoring chances. The Jeffs broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute, as Heo buried a cross from Julien Aoyama ’14 to give the Jeffs a 1-0 edge.

Galvanized by the breakthrough goal, Amherst struck the nylon less than five minutes later to grab a 2-0 lead. Noon initiated the play by racing down the left flank, delivering a cross to Aoyama in the box. Aoyama then took a nifty touch to settle the ball before placing a shot into the right corner of the net.

The Jeffs sustained their dominant play to the final whistle, building a 14-2 edge in shots in the second half.

Bridgewater State had one dangerous scoring opportunity in the 85th minute — Bears forward Simao Mendes snuck behind the Amherst defense on a breakaway — but first-year goalkeeper Thomas Bull stifled the attempt to preserve the shutout.

Despite the winning result, Serpone said he was unhappy with his team’s execution on Sunday. “I was disappointed at our performance against Bridgewater State. I thought we put ourselves in a tough spot being 0-0 at the half because we couldn’t find the resolve to pressure the ball the way that we need to be successful and then there were some defensive breakdowns at the end of the game,” he said. “It’s a credit to Bridgewater though because they are a tough, well-coached team.”

Amherst will open its NESCAC schedule at Bates this weekend. The Bobcats went winless in conference play last season (0-10-0), but gave the Jeffs a scare in last season’s meeting. Against Bates at home last September, the Jeffs hung on for a 3-2 victory after the Bobcats stormed back from a 3-0 deficit.

In addition, the Bobcats promoted former assistant Stewart Flaherty to the head coaching position at Bates, with the intent of reversing the soccer program’s fortunes.

“I think Bates is going to be a major challenge for us. They are playing their first home game of the season and have a new coach and will be ready to play,” Serpone said.

“I’ve been saying for months that the Bates game is going to be an absolute battle and if we’re not ready for it we’re going to have a long bus ride back to Amherst Saturday night.”