Second-Ranked Jeffs Firing on All Cylinders
Issue   |   Tue, 10/02/2012 - 23:14
Megan Robertson '15, Public Affairs Office
Rookie keeper Thomas Bull has allowed just one goal in his first eight games for the Jeffs.

The juggernaut men’s soccer team continued its perfect start to the season last weekend, grinding out a 2-0 victory at Tufts to spoil the Jumbos’ homecoming on Saturday. This week, the Jeffs, ranked No. 2 in the nation, improved their record to 8-0-0 (4-0-0 NESCAC).

During the seven-match winning streak, Amherst has outscored opponents by a staggering 24-1 margin. Furthermore, the Jeffs have won each game by at least two goals, avoiding the stressful one-goal contests that are so common in soccer. (Six of 16 of Amherst’s wins last year were one-goal affairs).

The Jeffs knew they faced a steep challenge at Tufts (5-1-2, 3-1-2 NESCAC), the fifth-ranked team in New England. The resurgent, up-and-coming Jumbos looked to make a statement in front of a raucous homecoming crowd. (Traditionally regarded as one of the NESCAC’s weaker soccer programs, Tufts has not secured a top-four finish in the conference standings since 2001).

The undaunted Jeffs, however, came out flying in the opening minutes, surging ahead to a 2-0 lead in the first half. Amherst stunned the crowd with an unorthodox goal in the eighth minute; Chris Lerner ’13 hurled a massive throw-in into the box, catching the Tufts’ defense by surprise. The ball bounced once in the box before Jae Heo ’14 sprinted toward the near post and tapped a header past the goalkeeper for his NESCAC-leading sixth goal of the season.

“Jae did a great job finding the ball, and Fede and Ale Sucre did a great job as they always do of creating havoc in the box and allowing Jae to get on the end of the throw,” Lerner said. Six-foot-five twins Federico and Alejandro Sucre ’13 often pose a nightmare matchup for defenses on set pieces (free kicks and long throw-ins).

“We always try to play to our strengths, and set pieces are definitely one of our main weapons when it comes to scoring goals,” Alejandro Sucre ’13 said.

Continuing to exert offensive pressure late in the first half, the Jeffs doubled their lead to 2-0 with a penalty kick goal in the 37th minute. After drawing a foul in a collision near the top right corner of the box, Julien Aoyama ’14 slotted the penalty shot into the lower right side of the net.

Tufts had a glorious chance to trim the deficit to 2-1 just before the half, earning a penalty kick in the 40th minute. The subsequent penalty shot, however, rattled off the right post, giving Amherst a fortuitous bounce heading into intermission.

The Jeffs sustained their high intensity into the second half, disrupting the Jumbos’ short-passing game with tenacious ball-hawking across the field. Apart from a diving header attempt in the 68th minute, Tufts enjoyed very few scoring chances against the disciplined Amherst backline.

“I thought our team defense was excellent on Saturday,” head coach Justin Serpone said. “We limited a high-powered Tufts offense to five shots, although we can’t give away PK’s in NESCAC games. We were fortunate it didn’t hurt us on Saturday.”

Goalkeeper Thomas Bull ’16 needed to make just one save for his fifth shutout victory of the season. The Jeffs out-shot Tufts 11-5, including a 7-1 advantage in shots on goal.

“We didn’t have our ‘A’ game but battled and competed for 90 minutes,” Serpone said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our effort. Tufts is a great team, and it wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them again in the playoffs.”

“I was proud of the way guys fought out there. It was a physical game against a very good team and guys responded,” Lerner said. “Every single one of my teammates brought great energy. We certainly still have areas to improve as a team but overall it was a good win against a really good team.”

After their big win, the Jeffs had little trouble dispatching Lesley Univ. on Tuesday, Oct. 2. Bubba Van Wie ’15 and Gab Wirz ’15 had two goals apiece, while the Jeffs held Lesley to just eight shots in the rout.

The Jeffs have their biggest match of the season against unbeaten Williams (6-0-1, 4-0-1 NESCAC) at home this Saturday. This year’s rivalry clash is particularly crucial, given that the winner will gain the upper hand in the race for the NESCAC’s No. 1 seed.

In last year’s encounter in Williamstown, the Jeffs rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the final 12 minutes to stun the Ephs, as the match ended in a 2-2 draw.

Amherst, however, has not beaten Williams since 2008, going 0-1-2 in the last three meetings with their archrivals.

“I expect a high intensity game through 90 minutes,” Sucre said. “We haven’t played Williams at home since my freshman year so this is an opportunity for us to play our best soccer and make a statement at our home field.”