Men's Soccer Defeats Wesleyan to Win 33rd Straight
Issue   |   Tue, 10/29/2013 - 23:39
Reid McWilliams '16, Public Affairs Office
In his last career regular-season home game, senior Max Fikke did his part to move the Jeffs one step closer to an undefeated campaign. The Jeffs’ latest win was a thrilling, 1-0 defeat of Wesleyan.

Over the past two weekends, second-ranked Amherst men’s soccer picked up two more victories, as the Jeffs improved to 11-0-2 overall on the season and 7-0-2 in the NESCAC. The team further extended its unbeaten streak to 33 games, which dates back to the final game of the 2011 season.

On Saturday, Oct. 19, the Jeffs hosted the Wesleyan Cardinals as part of Homecoming Weekend. Since the matchup against Wesleyan was also the last regular season home game remaining on the schedule, seniors Julien Aoyama, Brendan Caslin, Max Fikke, Robert Gooden and Ben Norton were recognized on Senior Day prior to the final regular season game of their Amherst careers.

Early in the contest, first-year forward Christopher Martin looked to add to his team-leading goal tally, but just missed wide of the left post on a shot from the right side.

When asked to comment, Martin remarked, “Wesleyan was a really tough game. They are a good team and certainly know how to knock the ball around.”

In the 14th minute of action, the Jeffs took the lead on a goal put to the far right corner by forward Greg Singer ’16, who notched his fifth goal on the season and tied for the team lead with Martin on the play.

Singer’s goal came off a sequence in which the ball was in the middle of the box: several players were trying to corral it prior to Singer gaining control of the ball and putting a shot on goal.

“Greg’s goal was crucial as Wesleyan did a great job of keeping the ball and limiting our shots in the second half,” Martin said.

Singer added, “The goal came from hard work from all my teammates. We earned a corner and pushed to get an early score. There was a battle in the box and after Nico’s shot was deflected, I was in the right spot at the right time to put it away.”

The Jeffs would hold on to their 1-0 as the two teams entered halftime, with Amherst holding a commanding 9-2 shot advantage over Wesleyan after the first 45 minutes.

Wesleyan would come out firing in the second half, as they had a 8-4 edge in shots over the Jeffs in the second half of play.

Although the Cardinals kept Amherst from scoring again in the second half, Wesleyan was unable to get on the scoreboard, as they were dealt their third NESCAC loss at the hands of Amherst.

Goalkeeper Thomas Bull ’16 stopped two of Wesleyan’s shots on goal and picked up the shutout for the Jeffs in the 1-0 victory over Wesleyan.

“Wesleyan is a very good team, and we knew that going in,” said head coach Justin Serpone. “We were fortunate to get an early goal and had to defend the lead for most of the game. It wasn’t the best we’ve ever played, but getting a result on Homecoming and Senior Day is something that we try and do every year.”

The following weekend, Amherst took the field against Western New England (entering play with an 11-3-3 record) in a competitive non-conference matchup.

Amherst dominated in the shot column against Western New England in both halves, as they held a 25-2 shot advantage over Western New England during the course of the game, but was unable to capitalize on any of these scoring opportunities in the first half of play. Meanwhile, the Jeffs held Western New England to one shot in the opening half.

The Jeffs put a large number of shots on goal in the second half but faced similar difficulty in scoring until the final minutes of play.

In the 88th minute, forward Nico Pascual-Leone ’16 provided the late game heroics with a game-winning goal, assisted by Martin, to lead the Jeffs to a 1-0 victory over Western New England in dramatic fashion.

On the play, two of Amherst’s starting forwards (Pascual-Leone and Martin) had a key role in the goal. Pascual-Leone and Martin, along with Singer (who scored the lone goal in the Wesleyan victory), have been major offensive contributors for Amherst this season, especially of late.

“Our forwards have been doing a good job,” Serpone said. “Each has come up with a goal when we’ve needed it in recent games.”

Just as had been accomplished the week before against Wesleyan, Bull and the stifling Amherst defense once again held their opponent off the scoreboard for the entire match. With Bull’s two most recent shutouts, he now has recorded six on the season and 20 for his career.

Today, Amherst travels to Hartford, Conn. to take on the Trinity Bantams at 3 p.m. in the Jeffs’ final regular season contest of 2013.

“The Trinity game is a very important game. It’s crucial that we finish the NESCAC regular season strong and build off that momentum going into the NESCAC playoffs and NCAAs. Trinity is a good team, and we have to be ready to play a tough, physical midweek game,” Singer said.

Prior to the game, Amherst had already clinched the NESCAC regular season title and won the right to host its opponents in the NESCAC tournament at Hitchcock Field.

“We are especially excited to have the first round at our home field because the fans this year have been amazing and are a key to our success,” Martin said.

However, according to Serpone, the team’s previous success is not going to impact their game plan heading into the match against the Bantams.

“Trinity is a very good team with some very good attacking players,” Serpone said, “We’re going to need 27 committed players to get a result on Wednesday. It should be a good match.”

As the regular season winds down, the numbers are impressive for Amherst. The Jeffs have outscored the opposition 28-6 over the course of the season and dominated in shot attempts, by way of a 280-100 edge. Amherst, with 84 corner kicks on the season, has also taken almost twice as many corners as its opponents, which have attempted 47 against the Jeffs.

The NESCAC Quarterfinals are set to begin on Saturday, Nov. 2, with the Jeffs taking on the No. 8 seed as the top seed in the NESCAC.

The NESCAC Semifinals and Finals will take place the following weekend, before NCAA Tournament play begins on Saturday, Nov. 16.

Despite the Jeffs’ impressive record to date, Serpone believes that the team still has room for improvement as postseason play approaches.

“Overall, I’d say that we’re in a good spot, but we’re a long way from being a finished product,” Serpone said. “There is a laundry list of things that we need to keep improving on if we want to still be playing two or three weeks from right now.”