Men's Soccer Shuts out Morrisville State, Advances to Sweet 16
Issue   |   Wed, 11/18/2015 - 01:41
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Christopher Martin '17 netted the game winner in the victory this weekend.

With a win over Morrisville State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, Nov. 15 on Hitchcock Field, the sixth-ranked men’s soccer team advances to the Sweet 16 for the sixth consecutive season and the eighth time in the past nine years. After the victory against Morrisville State, Amherst stands at 15-1-1 with a maximum of four games remaining in the season.

Amherst came out strong offensively against Morrisville State after a 15-day rest period from games following a 1-0 NESCAC quarterfinal loss to Wesleyan, the only game in which Amherst has failed to score all season, and a bye in the NCAA tournament’s first round.

Within the first four minutes against the Mustangs, Amherst had already attempted four shots, three of which were headers. While none of the early shots from Amherst found the net, it was clear that Amherst was serious about applying pressure early and often.

Just over 20 minutes into the first half, Amherst scored its first goal since the first half of a regular season game against Trinity (which ended in a 1-1, double-overtime draw) on Oct. 28. Junior midfielder Andrew Orozco received the ball on a free kick from forward Jackson Lehnhart ’17 and dribbled the ball down the left side before sending a great cross into junior striker Chris Martin ’17, who then headed the ball into the back of the net to put Amherst ahead, 1-0.

At the end of the first half, Amherst had a sizable shot advantage against the Mustangs, attempting 12 shots while Morrisville State had five attempts in the opening period. Even with a dozen shots in the first period, Amherst were only able to convert on one of these opportunities.

The two teams combined for 17 shot attempts in the first half, a number that far exceeded the shooting output of both teams in the second half. The purple and white attempted five shots in the second period, while the Mustangs had two shot attempts after the halftime break.

Two of Amherst’s five shots came fairly close together about 15 minutes into the half, when senior striker Nico Pascual-Leone narrowly missed the chance to double their lead on both occasions.

Amherst added an insurance goal about 20 minutes into the second period from Martin, occurring at roughly the same time within the second half as the goal Martin scored in the first half (the 21st minute in the opening period). On this scoring play, junior defender Cameron Bean attempted a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box, at which point Pascual-Leone headed it towards Martin, who found the net once again. While Martin notched his second score of the game and 10th goal of 2015, Bean picked up his fourth assist of 2015, while Pascual-Leone’s fifth assist gives him 27 points (11 goals and five assists) on the season. For his efforts all season, Pascual-Leone was recognized as a First Team All-NESCAC player in 2015.
On defense, Amherst turned in another strong effort, shutting out the Mustangs after allowing goals in its previous two games (following a seven-game shutout streak prior to allowing goals in back-to-back games).

Senior goalie Thomas Bull, who was recognized as a First Team All-NESCAC honoree, made two saves in the shutout, the 13th of his 2015 campaign and the 47th of his career, which puts Bull in a tie for most career shutouts in NCAA Division III men’s soccer history. With another clean sheet in the Sweet 16, Bull will have the chance to overtake Marc Church, who logged 47 shutouts for Ohio Northern between 2009-2012, for the most career shutouts in Division III history.

The defensive unit has also been strong all season, as Bean, junior defender Rohan Sood, and defender Justin Aoyama ’17 helped anchor the defensive unit against the Mustangs. Amherst’s defense has received some key contributions from a wide variety of players throughout the 2015 season. In recognition of his critical role in helping to lead a talented defense, Aoyama was named to the All-NESCAC Second Team in 2015.

Coach Justin Serpone was pleased with the outcome of the game against the Mustangs after a two-week layover, but acknowledged the team could have played even better. “We certainly didn’t plan for a two week layoff, but I think we made the most of it,” Serpone said. “I’d have liked us to play a bit better on Saturday, but I think we had to get back into the mindset of playing a competitive game. Credit also to Morrisville State. They are a good team with very good players who are well-coached.”

Up next, Amherst will face Lycoming (18-1-2) in the Sweet 16 on Saturday, with the match set to take place on Hitchcock Field. Lycoming, ranked 15th in the nation, knocked off Dickinson, 2-1, in its previous NCAA Tournament game, after topping Johnson & Wales, 1-0, in NCAA first round play.

“Lycoming is very good,” Serpone said. “They currently have a 20-game unbeaten streak, which is really remarkable. I think this might be the only home game we’ve played in my nine years where we are the true underdog. It will be tough to advance, but we’ll be as prepared as possible and try our best.”

If Amherst manages to prevail against Lycoming, they will be in the Elite Eight for the third time in the last four seasons and also have the opportunity to get revenge on the team that ousted them from the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Amherst will face the winner of Brandeis and Trinity (Texas), a game also set to take place on Hitchcock Field on Saturday, the following day in the Elite Eight.

While Amherst has never faced Trinity (Texas), Amherst most recently took on the Judges in the 2014 NCAA Sweet 16, when Brandeis managed to knock off Amherst in penalty kicks after a 0-0, double-overtime draw. Brandeis (18-2-1 on the season and ranked No. 3 in the nation) advanced to the Sweet 16 upon beating Thomas (Maine), 2-1, in the NCAA first round, and RPI, 2-1, in second-round action and will look to return to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive year. Trinity (Texas), sporting a 21-2-0 record on the season, has yet to allow a goal in its two contests thus far in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, as Trinity cruised to a 3-0 victory over Texas-Dallas, before beating Redlands, 1-0.

Reflecting on the season thus far, Serpone said, “I’ve felt fortunate to be the coach of such a special group of people. I continue to be proud of every member of our team and I’d love nothing more than to spend a couple more weeks with them.”