Men’s Soccer Falls in Round of Sixteen, Finishes at 14-1-6
Issue   |   Wed, 12/03/2014 - 01:12

For the second time in the last three seasons and the third time over the past five seasons, the men’s soccer team saw its season come to an end in the NCAA tournament on penalty kicks. This year, the Jeffs were unable to finish off the fifth-ranked Brandeis Judges in the NCAA third round following a 0-0 draw through two overtime periods. This came after the Jeffs’ fifth straight appearance in the Sweet 16 and Amherst’s ninth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. The Jeffs finished the 2014 season with a 14-1-6 overall record. Amherst advanced to the NCAA third round following a victory over Fitchburg State, 2-0, in the NCAA First Round and after the Jeffs topped a talented St. Laurence team in penalty kicks in the second round.

On Saturday, Nov. 22 in Oneonta, New York, Amherst and Brandeis squared off. The game was scoreless over the first 45 minutes in a game in which frigid conditions were certainly a factor. The Jeffs held a 6-3 edge in shots attempted in the first half.

In the second period of play, both teams were once again unable to convert any scoring chances, as each team attempted five shots in the half. Towards the end of regulation, Amherst goalie Thomas Bull ’16 made two key saves to keep the game scoreless heading into overtime.

In the final period before penalty kicks, the Jeffs had several promising opportunities to score but were unable to convert.
For the second consecutive game in the NCAA tournament and the third time in four matches (dating back to the NCAA Championship against Bowdoin), an Amherst game headed to penalty kicks. After coming up strong against the St. Lawrence Saints in goal during penalty kicks, first-year goalie Lee Owen returned to the net for the penalty shootout against Brandeis.

Owen was able to stop Brandeis’ first effort, while Pascaul-Leone buried the first Amherst penalty kick to give the Jeffs a 1-0 lead. Midfielder Bryce Ciambella ’17, senior defender Gab Wirz, midfielder Milton Rico ’16E, and junior forward Greg Singer helped keep the Jeffs even in penalty kicks, as Amherst and Brandeis were tied at five conversions each after each team attempted six shots. However, a score from Brandeis forward Evan Jastremski ’17, followed by an Amherst miss, gave Brandeis the 6-5 victory in penalty kicks, resulting in elimination for the Jeffs in the NCAA tournament.

Both goalies were stellar in net, as each goalie posted a shutout in both regulation and the two overtime periods. Bull made seven saves during the shutout, while Graffy had eight saves for Brandeis.

After advancing on penalty kicks, Brandeis matched up against Oneonta State (or SUNY Oneonta) in the Elite Eight. However, the Judges were unable to keep the dream alive, as the fell 3-0 in the NCAA quarterfinals. SUNY Oneonta will take on Wheaton (Ill.) in one of the national semifinal matchups, while Ohio Wesleyan will square off against Tufts, the No. 1 seed in this year’s NESCAC tournament, for the other spot in the national championship. The national semifinals are slated to take place on Friday, Dec. 5 in Kansas City, Missouri., while the national championship is scheduled for the following afternoon.

“The senior class has demonstrated some amazing leadership for us,” Rico said. “This is the class that I came in with and I still look up to them.”

“It takes some time for us to move on from a loss, but we always keep our heads up and find a way to bounce back,” Rico added. “We’re looking forward to building upon this past season and continuing to grow this great program in 2015.”