Men's Soccer Falls to Williams in Elite Eight of NCAA's
Issue   |   Wed, 12/04/2013 - 00:10
Photo Courtesy of Rob Mattson
Chris Martin '17 takes control of the ball in front of a Williams defender.

The successful 2013 journey of Amherst men’s soccer through the NCAA Tournament came to an end on Sunday, Nov. 24 against Williams in the Elite Eight following a 1-0 loss in frigid conditions.

With the loss to Williams, Amherst fell one win short of reaching the Final Four for the second consecutive season.
The Jeffs also snapped a 40 game unbeaten streak that began at the start of the 2012 season following their last regulation loss in the 2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 against Stevens Institute.

Prior to their Elite Eight matchup against Williams, Amherst earned a 2-1 double overtime victory in the Sweet 16 by topping St. Lawrence, who entered play after an 8-0 win against Wheaton College in the NCAA Second Round.

To begin the game, the St. Lawrence Saints had a legitimate scoring opportunity a little over ten minutes into the contest, but were unable to finish the chance.

Sophomore forward Greg Singer and senior midfielder Max Fikke took promising shots on goal in rapid succession around the 20-minute mark, but both players narrowly missed putting the Jeffs ahead with their respective shot attempts.

In the first half, both teams were held scoreless. The Jeffs did, however, hold a commanding 10-2 shot advantage in the opening 45 minutes.

Early in the second half, the Jeffs grabbed the lead on a score from Singer, who took control of a loose ball, originating from a corner kick, and fired it into the left corner of the net past St. Lawrence goalie Aaron Costello.

While the Jeffs were able to prevent St. Lawrence from scoring for most of regulation, they were unable to close the door on a shutout victory. The Saints made a late charge towards the end of the second half and managed to pull even with 44 seconds remaining. Austin Rooney scored a well-placed shot from beyond the box to send the game into overtime.

After the Jeffs held a strong first half edge in attempted shots, St. Lawrence drew closer in the second half after taking seven shots, while Amherst attempted four in the second half.

St. Lawrence continued this aggressive play and carried their momentum into the first overtime, as they attempted four shots, while the Jeffs only took a single shot in the first overtime. Neither team was able to score in the first overtime.

Less than one minute into the second overtime, first-year striker Chris Martin put a header on goal that was blocked by Costello. However, Singer, the hero of the day, was there to gather the rebound and found the back of the net for his second goal of the game to clinch the game for the Jeffs, eliminating St. Lawrence and setting up an Elite Eight matchup of Amherst vs. Williams for the second straight year.

Fifteen minutes into the game, sophomore striker Nico Pascual-Leone sent a cross into the box that looked to be trouble for Williams, but Williams goalkeeper Thomas Morrell was able to clear the ball and prevent further danger.

Midway through the first half, Williams’ Mohammed Rashid evaded Amherst defenders and executed a nice pass to Matt Muralles, who then took a convincing shot that goalie Thomas Bull ’16 stopped with a diving save.

Bull would make another great save late in the first half to preserve the scoreless tie heading into the halftime break.
About halfway through the second half, senior Julien Aoyama struck the ball towards goal, but his shot was blocked by Morrell. A Williams defender then cleared the ball from the box after it deflected off Morrell.

With less than 15 minutes remaining, Williams earned a free kick after an Amherst foul. Ephs defender Chris Conder stepped up to take the kick for Williams and skillfully placed it in the top left corner of the net to give the Ephs a 1-0 lead, which they would not relinquish.

While Amherst topped Williams in its previous two meetings in 2013, including a 1-0 victory over the Ephs in the NESCAC Finals, their third meeting proved to be different, as Williams held on to a 1-0 lead the rest of the way to eliminate the Jeffs and earn their second straight trip to the Final Four.

Williams will now face Messiah in the National Semifinals, which will take place on Friday, Dec. 6 in San Antonio, Texas.
The winner of this game is scheduled to face the winner of Rutgers-Camden and Loras in the National Championship on Saturday, Dec. 7 in San Antonio.

Although Amherst’s 2013 season ended in abrupt fashion against Williams, after the team had reached the Elite Eight without losing all season and a trip to the Final Four looked promising, the Jeffs (who finished with an 18-1-2 overall record and a 8-0-2 record in NESCAC play), had an impressive body of work in 2013 that yielded a NESCAC Championship, a No. 1 national ranking for the first time in program history and a trip to the NCAA Elite Eight.

“We’re certainly disappointed at Sunday’s result, but there is only one team that is going to be happy at the end of the year and we’re going to chose to focus on all the great things that happened this season,” Head Coach Justin Serpone said. “It was an awesome journey with 30 amazing people and for that I’m grateful.”

The Jeffs will be losing a total of five seniors to graduation (Aoyama, Brendan Caslin, Fikke, Robert Gooden, Ben Norton), each of whom played an important role for Amherst.

The 2013 senior class finished with a 64-5-11 overall record and a 28-2-9 mark in NESCAC play over their Amherst careers, appeared in the NCAA Sweet 16 in each of their four years and made back-to-back trips to the Elite Eight in their final two seasons as well.

“We’ll certainly miss this senior class on the field, but I’ll personally miss them most off of it,” Serpone said. “They are a collection of five different players and personalities that had a lasting impact on Amherst Soccer. The good news is that once you’re a part of Amherst Soccer, you’re always a part of it, so while their role might change, they’ll forever be embedded in our culture.”

Even with the loss of key contributions from the senior class, the Jeffs will return a talented core capable of making a deep postseason run in 2014. Next season, Amherst will feature a squad consisting of players accounting for 84 percent Amherst’s overall goal-scoring in 2013, 76 percent of the season’s assists and 81 percent of the Jeffs’ total points.

Coach Serpone is excited for next season, but does not want to look too far ahead at this point.“I can’t even think about next year yet,” Serpone said.

“The only thing I know for sure is that we have a lot of work to do to before we play New England College on Sept. 2nd. My only expectation is that we’ll try our best each game, which is exactly what the 2013 team did so well.”