Third-Ranked Men's Soccer Nets Pair of Wins
Issue   |   Wed, 09/18/2013 - 00:45
Megan Robertson '15, Public Affairs Office
Goalkeeper Thomas Bull ’16 had a total of six saves and one goal allowed on the week.

Following a nerve-racking overtime win over a Middlebury team missing nine freshmen due to orientation, Amherst Men’s Soccer vanquished any lingering doubts of their championship mettle with a dominating 3-0 victory over Bowdoin Saturday.

The Jeffs improved to 4-0 (2-0 NESCAC) on the season, extending their unbeaten streak to 24 games dating back to November 2011. Even after losing five starters to graduation, Head Coach Justin Serpone has managed to incorporate a slew of first-years and other bright, young players into the lineup while racing to a perfect record.

Against Bowdoin (1-2, 0-2 NESCAC), the Jeffs controlled the tempo of the game from the start, recording the first seven shots of the match and scoring twice in the first 30 minutes to go up 2-0 by halftime. Amherst outshot Bowdoin by a 24-6 margin over the full 90 minutes.

“Bowdoin is a strong opponent — it’s always a dogfight against them — but we did a very good job of handling the physical battle,” co-captain Max Fikke ’14 said.

Overwhelming Bowdoin with relentless attacking pressure and tenacious tackling, the Jeffs got on the scoreboard when co-captain Ben Norton ’14 buried a feed from Nico Pascual-Leone ’16 in the 21st minute. Just seven minutes later, the Jeffs extended their lead to 2-0 when Greg Singer ’16 punched home a loose ball after a blocked shot attempt from Mikey Hoeksema ’15.

Continuing to attack Bowdoin’s end of the field, the Jeffs narrowly missed two opportunities to stretch the lead even further before the halftime whistle. Gabriel Wirz ’15 saw his close-range header narrowly veer to the left from Pascual-Leone’s corner kick.

Two minutes later, first-year Elliott Cassutt’s strike drifted just over the crossbar off of an excellent look from the top of the 18-yard-box.

Having been outshot 15-2 in the first half, the Polar Bears came out with more attacking energy after the break, creating their first serious chance early in the second half. Bowdoin’s Cedric Charlier received an incisive cross-field pass near the top of the box, and lashed out a fierce strike that forced goalkeeper Thomas Bull ’16 to make a diving save.

With Bull scrambling to return to his feet, Bowdoin’s Matt Dias Costa got his foot on the rebound, but the Jeffs caught a fortunate break when he missed the open net.

The Jeffs added a spectacular insurance goal in the 77th minute, as Bubba Van Wie ’15 stole the ball from a Bowdoin defender and dribbled into the box before unleashing a shot over the goalie’s head into the top right corner. The Polar Bears hardly threatened in the final minutes as the Jeffs held on comfortably for the team’s first clean sheet of the season.

“It’s really a simple formula. When we approach games with energy and are ready to compete, we have the chance to be good,” said Coach Serpone.

Earlier in the week, the Jeffs cruised to a 4-1 win at Curry College on Wednesday night.

Amherst opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, when Andrew Orozco ’17 buried a corner kick from Fikke. Taking advantage of another set piece opportunity, Norton doubled the Jeffs’ advantage with a goal just 1:55 before the half.

The Jeffs extended the lead to 3-0 when Wirz headed home a free kick from Hoeksema in the 56th minute. Amherst conceded a late penalty kick goal in the 87th minute, but the Jeffs responded just 1:14 later, as Will Poss ’16 converted a header opportunity from sophomore Tommy Haskel’s cross.

While Amherst has been prolific on the offensive end ­— scoring 3.25 goals per game in four wins — the Jeffs have been shakier on defense. Having conceded three goals in their first three games, the Jeffs have already matched their tally of total goals allowed in 2012 (3 goals in 20 matches).

“We don’t want to give up goals, period,” Fikke said. “As a defense-first program, giving up goals is a huge deal to us.”

Although some regression from 2012 was probably inevitable — which was certainly not helped by the Jeffs being on the wrong side of two penalty kick decisions in 2013 already — the team refuses to attribute defensive problems to bad bounces or officiating calls.

Looking ahead, the Jeffs have their most important regular season match of the year Saturday: a grudge rivalry clash at Williams (3-1, 1-1 NESCAC). The Jeffs defeated Williams in the NESCAC final last year, but the Ephs exacted revenge with a penalty-kick shootout victory over Amherst in the NCAA Quarterfinals in late November. The Jeffs outplayed Williams that day, but it was simply not to be as they hit the post five times in regulation.

While emotions will be running high in Williamstown, the Jeffs cannot afford to overlook today’s match against Conn. College (2-1, 0-1 NESCAC) at Hitchcock Field. In recent years, the Jeffs have struggled against the Camels on home turf, losing two of the past three meetings in Amherst. This time around, complacency will not be an option.

“The important thing this week is to take it one step at a time and focus on Conn. College,” Serpone said. “They are a very good team who will compete hard for 90 minutes. This is a huge game for us and we need to be ready.”