Men's Soccer Tops Bates For Second Win Of Season
Issue   |   Wed, 09/19/2012 - 01:20
Megan Robertson '15, Public Affairs Office
Junior forward Jae Ho broke the 0-0 halftime score with his 52nd minute goal. The Jeffs went on to win 2-0.

The men’s soccer team kicked off its NESCAC title defense in convincing fashion last weekend, booting Bates by a 2-0 score this Saturday. Federico Sucre ’13 paced the Jeffs’ attack with a goal and an assist, while the stingy, disciplined Amherst backline suffocated the Bobcats’ offense, not allowing a single shot on net.

Through their first three games, the Jeffs (3-0-0, 1-0-0 NESCAC, ranked No. 3 nationally) have outscored their opponents 10-0, opening the season with three consecutive shutouts for the first time in more than 15 years.

Against Bates, the Jeffs dominated possession from the opening whistle, building a 12-0 shots advantage in the first half. Despite the disparity in scoring chances, however, the game remained tied at 0-0 at halftime.

“We knew we were getting the wind at halftime and that was going to help on our clearances, but the bottom line is that we needed to put the ball in the goal,” head coach Justin Serpone said.

The Jeffs broke the deadlock seven minutes into the second half. Sucre launched a shot that clanged off the crossbar, but Jae Heo ’14 buried the rebound to give Amherst a 1-0 lead.

Continuing to sustain pressure on the attacking end, the Jeffs doubled their lead to 2-0 in the 78th minute. After Max Fikke ’14 delivered a nice cross into the box, the 6’5” Sucre headed the ball past the Bates goalkeeper.

The Jeffs outshot Bates 26-1, with a 10-0 edge in shots on goal. Amherst goaltender Thomas Bull ’15 did not have to make any saves, as starting defenders Chris Lerner ’13, Robert Gooden ’14, Gabriel Wirz ’15 and Julien Aoyama ’14 stymied the Bobcats attack for 90 minutes.

“I was most proud of our defensive effort against Bates,” Serpone said. “We have new personnel at both center back spots and goalkeeper and they’ve worked hard to become a strength of the team in the early going.”

Entering this season, the coaching staff knew that the Jeffs featured explosive offensive talent, having returned 49 of 50 goals from last year’s roster. The big question marks surrounded the defense, as the Jeffs lost key cogs such as goalkeeper Lennard Kovacs, center defender Sam Kaplan, and gritty central midfielder Thebe Tsatsimpe.

Somewhat unexpectedly, Gooden and Wirz have excelled in filling the void at center defense, anchoring the team to its best defensive start in recent history. Wirz — a towering presence at 6’4” — appeared in only four games last season. Gooden, on the other hand, actually switched positions this fall, having played striker in previous years.

“Robert Gooden has done a great job stepping into one of the centerback spots. He hasn’t played defense in years and you’d never know that from the past few weekends,” Serpone said. “It’s a credit to what a special player he is.”

The Jeffs continue their NESCAC schedule with games against Hamilton (0-3-1 NESCAC) and Middlebury (1-1-0 NESCAC) this weekend. Amherst will host Hamilton on Saturday before travelling to Middlebury on Sunday.

“We’re in for a real challenge next weekend,” Serpone said. “Hamilton is a good team that has gotten unlucky in their first few NESCAC games, including a double OT loss vs. Williams. Then on Sunday we have to make the trip to Middlebury, where we haven’t won since 2008.”

“Back-to-back NESCAC games take quite a bit of resolve and I’ll be interested to see what we have next Saturday and Sunday,” Serpone said.