Men's Soccer Advances to Sweet Sixteen of NCAA's
Issue   |   Tue, 11/19/2013 - 22:44
Photo Courtesy of Public Affairs Office
Sophomore goalie Thomas Bull has continued his fantastic rookie season this year by dominating in the net. With eight saves this past weekend, Bull added two more shutouts of his season total of ten.

With an offensive explosion for Men’s Soccer this past weekend in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Jeffs return to the NCAA Round of 16 for the fourth consecutive season.

The Jeffs made quick work of Bridgewater State in a 3-0 victory in the first round of the NCAA Championship on Saturday, Nov. 16.

The Jeffs then cruised to a 5-0 victory over Gordon College the following afternoon. Amherst played both matches on Hitchcock Field and will continue to play at home this upcoming weekend.

The Jeffs improved to 17-0-2 on the season and extended their unbeaten streak to a whopping 39 games.

After a couple of early scoring chances for Bridgewater State, Amherst marched down the field on the counter attack.

Senior Robert Gooden dribbled the ball down the center of the pitch and executed a nice through ball to the right side of the field around the 18-yard box.

Sophomore striker Nico Pascual-Leone received the pass and put the ball into the left corner of the goal for his fifth goal on the year to give the Jeffs a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute.

Less than a minute later, Amherst struck again, as forward Greg Singer ’16 played a cross from the right side in to striker Chris Martin ’17, who had plenty of space on the far side of the field.

Martin proceeded to bury the ball into the right corner of the net to double Amherst’s lead.

The Jeffs stayed on the attack however and would not relent, as they had promising opportunities to add a third goal before the half.

With just about 17 minutes remaining in the half, senior Max Fikke, who scored the lone goal of the NESCAC Finals the previous Sunday, narrowly missed scoring a goal in his second straight contest by just putting it wide of the left edge of the net.

Amherst broke for halftime with a 2-0 lead and 10-2 shot advantage in the first half of play.

Amherst’s shot advantage and overall lead would only increase in the second half.

After Pascual-Leone’s attempted shot was blocked on an extended corner kick, Singer swooped in and scored to give Amherst a 3-0 lead 15 minutes into the second half of play.

The Jeffs continued to apply the pressure and almost scored a fourth goal, as first-year Cameron Bean headed the ball in off a rebound from the post, but was unable to put it past the goalie.

Amherst would not add another goal the rest of the game.

However, their defense held strong en route to the shutout (with only five shot attempts allowed and two shots on goal) and 3-0 win, ending Bridgewater State’s season.

The next afternoon, the Jeffs experienced similar offensive success against Gordon College.

Gordon had beaten Eastern Conn. State, 1-0, in the first round to set up a match with the Jeffs.

On a great corner kick from Pascual-Leone near the 20-minute mark, senior Ben Norton headed the ball for a score in the top right corner to put the Jeffs up 1-0.

Less than ten minutes later, the Jeffs struck again off another Pascual-Leone set piece. After the ball bounced around in the box with no one taking possession, Fikke took control of the ball and put it past Gordon goalkeeper Josh Spoonhour to put Amherst comfortably ahead.

Just as they had done the previous day, the Jeffs headed into halftime with a 2-0 lead over Gordon and a decisive shot advantage.

Early in the second half, Amherst remained on the offensive attack.

Pascual-Leone sent a pass from the left side of pitch to the center of the box, at which point Fikke directed it to the right corner of the net for his second goal of the game to put Amherst up 3-0.

On the play, Pascual-Leone picked up his third assist on the afternoon and fourth on the weekend, after tallying an assist in the win over Bridgewater State.

While the Jeffs scored two goals in a span of less than one minute in the first half of their match against Bridgewater State, Amherst continued this trend in the second half of play against Gordon.

Just 50 seconds later, classmates and forwards Singer and Pascual-Leone performed a give-and-go pass sequence, which ultimately set up Pascual-Leone for a shot opportunity from the left side.

Pascual-Leone made the most of the opportunity, picking up his second goal of the weekend.

Another pair of sophomores would contribute to a scoring effort towards the end of the contest.

In the 87th minute, sophomore Will Poss scored his second goal of the season from a rebound off a Douglass Jamison ’16 shot to give the Jeffs a 5-0 lead, which would hold for the remainder of the game.

Overall, the Jeffs amassed eight goals on the weekend in their opening games in the NCAA Tournament without allowing a goal in back-to-back shutouts, and they now advance to the Sweet 16 as a result of their strong offensive and defensive performance over the weekend.

“This weekend was a good way to start the tournament,” said head coach Justin Serpone. “I thought we did a good job of creating chances, and, most importantly, we didn’t give up a goal.”

Up next, the Jeffs will take on the St. Lawrence Saints (16-2-2) in the NCAA Round of 16 on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 1:30 p.m. on Hitchcock Field.

The Saints, who are nationally ranked, advanced to the Sweet 16 thanks to their 8-0 victory over Wheaton College in NCAA second round action.

St. Lawrence won the National Championship back in 1999.

“St. Lawrence is as good as any team in the country,” Serpone said. “They scored eight goals against a good Wheaton team on Sunday and are clicking in every facet of the game. We’re going to have to play our best to stay in the game against them.”

The Jeffs stand just two wins from a trip to the Final Four in Texas and four wins away from a coveted NCAA Championship.
If the Jeffs are victorious against St. Lawrence and advance to the Elite Eight, they will face off against the winner of other NCAA Regional Semifinal between Williams (13-6) and Brandeis (16-4-1).

If Amherst and Williams are both victorious in the Sweet 16, a repeat matchup of the 2012 Elite Eight will take place at Hitchcock Field.

This will allow the Jeffs and Ephs to add another chapter to their storied rivalry.

Despite Amherst’s impressive run of success, Serpone feels that his team still has yet to reach its peak level of performance.

“We can get better at a lot of things,” Serpone said. “I don’t know if we’ve hit our stride yet. For one thing, we need to find a way to play well on Saturdays. We’ve done well on the back end of the last few weekends, but we’ve started slow. That’s going to be a point of emphasis this week.”