Men's Soccer Can't Close Out Cardinals After 2OT
Issue   |   Tue, 10/23/2012 - 22:04

Hounded by a raucous, hostile Wesleyan homecoming crowd, the men’s soccer team battled to a 1-1 draw against the Cardinals last weekend.

Spencer Noon ’13 staked the Jeffs (11-0-2, 7-0-2 NESCAC) to a 1-0 lead by scoring just 22 seconds before halftime, but Wesleyan (7-3-3, 5-2-2 NESCAC) leveled the match in the 66th minute to steal a share of the points.

With Saturday’s result in the books, all three Little Ivy teams (Amherst, Williams, Wesleyan) have tied each other this season, marking the first time since 1932 that all three Little Ivy matchups have ended in draws.

The 1-1 draw against Wesleyan dropped the Jeffs into a first-place tie with Williams (7-0-2 NESCAC) in the conference standings. With the NESCAC’s No. 1 seed (and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs) on the line, Amherst concludes its regular season at Connecticut College this afternoon, while Williams takes on Middlebury.

Hitting the road for the first time since September, the Jeffs knew they would encounter a dogfight at Wesleyan. The Cardinals — No. 3 in the NESCAC standings — entered the derby match on an uncharacteristic two-game losing streak, having suffered defeats to Eastern Connecticut State and Conn College.

“It is always hard to play away at a school on their homecoming,” Mooney said. “They were also coming off of two losses and were in desperate need of a result against us. All of this made for a difficult game.”

The Jeffs created the first quality scoring chance in the 15th minute, but first-year Greg Singer’s effort rattled off the post to keep the game scoreless.

Just before halftime, Amherst stunned the homecoming crowd with a goal in the 45th minute — only 22 seconds before the half-ending whistle. Ben Norton ’14 delivered a pinpoint cross from the right flank, allowing Noon to strike a header from close range for his NESCAC-leading ninth goal of the season.

Amherst dominated the early stages of the second half, accumulating a 9-1 shots advantage in the first 17 minutes of the period.

The feisty Cardinals, however, shocked the Jeffs with a brilliant goal in the 66th minute, as Wesleyan’s Rory O’Neill unleashed a 20-yard laser into the right corner of the net. O’Neill’s tally was just the second goal conceded by Amherst’s stingy defense all season, breaking a scoreless streak of 857:29 — the equivalent of about 9.5 matches.

Backed by an energized crowd, Wesleyan began to reverse Amherst’s earlier domination, controlling possession for longer stretches as the match progressed.

With the game deadlocked at 1-1 after regulation, the arch-rivals battled through an action-packed, nail-biting overtime session. The Jeffs had their best scoring chance just two minutes into extra time, as the ever-dangerous Noon sprung loose from the Wesleyan backline — surging into the box from the left side — but his point-blank shot was stopped by Cardinals’ goalkeeper Adam Purdy.

Just one minute later, the Cardinals came inches from winning when Wesleyan’s Brandon Sousa nailed a shot off the crossbar; the ball bounced back to O’Neill, but Amherst goalkeeper Thomas Bull ’16 smothered the low header attempt.

“They had solid players at every position and were a good team at keeping the ball. That said, I thought we played well for stretches and worked pretty hard defensively,” James Mooney ’13E said. “We had our share of chances and I still feel that we can do a better job capitalizing on these to really put a team away.”

“There is definitely a lot for us to improve upon,” Mooney said. “We need to be able to put in a full 90-minute effort without any momentary lapses that can change a game.”

The Jeffs will look to stay in contention for the NESCAC’s No. 1 seed with a victory at Conn. College this afternoon. The Camels (5-2-6, 1-2-6 NESCAC) have inexplicably dominated Amherst in recent years, winning three of the past four meetings.

In last year’s matchup, the Camels ruined the Jeffs’ undefeated season with a stunning 3-2 upset in the regular season finale at Amherst. In that agonizing defeat, the Jeffs hit three posts, scored an own goal and missed a penalty shot in the 88th minute.

“The Conn. game has definitely been marked on the calendar. Conn. has always played well against us, but we will be fully prepared and focused going into the game on Wednesday,” Mooney said.

This season, Conn. College has not lost a match on home turf (2-0-4). The Camels are also unbeaten in their last eight matches (4-0-4).

“Their field is surrounded by houses and fraternities and is a tough one to play on, so we need to come out firing and ready from the start,” Mooney said. “I expect them to bring a lot of energy and confidence due to their results against us in the past. We are not treating the game lightly, however, and we will be ready to go.”