Exceptional Senior Class Looking to Lead Amherst to First NESCAC Title

Senior Jake Duker has combined for 17 goals and eight assists in the last two seasons. 

2007 Season Recap
In his head coaching debut with the Lord Jeffs, Justin Serpone immediately put his team in the spotlight by rattling off 11 consecutive wins to kick off the 2007 season. Amherst finished the regular season at 13-1 overall and 8-1 in the NESCAC to claim the top seed in the conference championship tournament, but a 2-1 win over fifth-seeded Bowdoin was followed by a 1-0 loss to Middlebury in the finals. The Jeffs earned a first-round bye in both the NESCAC and NCAA tournaments, picking up a gutsy 3-2 win over WNEC in the Round of 32 on their home field. Amherst ended in a scoreless tie with York College in the Round of 16 but could not advance past the penalty kick round, as the impressive season came to an end at 15-2-1, marking one of the best records in program history.

Amherst’s offense was a force to be reckoned with from day one. The Jeffs scored at least two goals in each of their first 11 games, outscoring opponents 35-8 during that stretch to land as high as No. 3 in the national rankings. By season’s end, Amherst had scored 43 goals for the NESCAC’s highest goals-per-game (2.39) and assists-per-game (2.44) averages. The team’s defense was just as impressive, with the mere 14 goals allowed resulting in the conference’s second lowest goals-against average (0.77) and second highest shutout total (8).

The Class of 2008 went 46-15-6 in four years and was a combined 27-5-3 in the last two seasons. Leading what can be considered one of the most talented senior classes in program history were tri-captains Ryan O’Donnell, Taylor Downs and John Kneeland, who last year combined for 16 goals and 14 assists. Downs and Kneeland each earned All-NESCAC and NSCAA/adidas All-New England First Team honors, with Downs also grabbing an All-America Second Team selection for averaging one point per game. A two-time NESCAC Fall All-Academic honoree, O’Donnell was not selected to last year’s All-Conference Team despite scoring five goals with five helpers for the NESCAC’s seventh highest points-per-game average (0.88).

The Amherst offense will also lose the services of Kevin Dolan, Joe Martinez and Jon Pryor. Dolan began the 2007 season with just one goal to his name, but last year he was able to net the eventual game-winner against Bates and pick up a trio of assists, including one in a victory over Bowdoin in the NESCAC semifinals. Helping anchor Amherst’s defense from 2004 to 2007 were Willy Warren and Tim Grose, who were instrumental in the Jeffs finishing in the top four in the conference in goals-against-average in each of the last four seasons, including the second lowest average in each of the last two years. Rounding out the nine graduates is goalkeeper Mo Zeidan, who was a perfect 6-0 in his four seasons with Amherst. Zeidan’s best season came in 2006 when he went 4-0 and played in seven games, as he finished his career with a 0.84 goals-against average and .821 save percentage.

This year’s senior class features one of the NESCAC’s most talented offensive combinations in Jake Duker and Nick Lynch. After leading Amherst with nine goals and five assists as a sophomore, Duker added another eight goals and three assists last year despite missing approximately one quarter of the season due to injury. Upon returning from his injury, Duker scored two goals during the Jeffs’ 3-2 win over WNEC in the NCAA Tournament and went on to earn All-NESCAC and NSCAA/adidas All-New England Second Team honors.

Lynch burst onto the Amherst scene with five goals and four assists as a first-year and has since been an assist machine for the Lord Jeffs, grabbing All-New England First Team recognition as a junior. After leading the conference with nine assists as a sophomore, Lynch chalked up another eight helpers to go along with three goals last season, including the lone goal in a 1-0 win at Williams. Helping out on the attack will be fellow seniors Mike Connolly and Joe Addison. Connolly transferred from UMass-Amherst last fall and started in 10 games for the Jeffs as a midfielder with exceptional field vision and ball control, while Addison’s goal in a 4-3 win at Springfield College marked the first points of his four-year career.

Senior Grayson Holland earned All-America honors in 2007 and returns to lead a stellar Amherst defense. 

Rounding out the senior class is an exceptionally talented trio that will once again form a solid defensive core. Returning to net is Jeff Grover, Amherst’s go-to goalkeeper for the past two seasons. Grover finished with the NESCAC’s second lowest goals-against average (0.58) and second highest save percentage (.837) as a sophomore, following up with five shutouts and a solid 0.81 goals-against average last year. Forming a solid wall in front of Grover will be defenders Grayson Holland and Rory O’Connor, who each started in all of Amherst’s 18 games last year. While O’Connor recorded a goal and two assists for the first points of his career, on defense he had a knack for always being in the right place at the right time as a very intelligent player. Holland added three goals and an assist and was peppered with postseason awards, including selection to the All-NESCAC and All-New England First Teams, as well as NSCAA/adidas All-America Third Team.

Juniors and Sophomores
Looking to step into a more significant role are seven juniors that combined for three goals and eight assists last year. In the midfield will be Javier Marin and Reid Wilson, who each picked up an assist last year, as well as Rob Denious, who scored Amherst’s first goal of the 2007 season. With the ability to play in the midfield and on defense are Mark Crane and Chris Devine, who each had three assists and saw significant playing time as sophomores. Rounding out the junior class are 2006 NESCAC Rookie of the Year Matt Lewis and goalkeeper Ansel Orr. While Orr will once again serve as a reliable backup in net, Lewis will look to return to his usual form after missing the entire 2007 campaign due to injury.

Adding significant depth to the Amherst attack and leading the sophomore class are forwards Ryan Conti, Chris Linsmayer and Ian Rothkopf. Finishing with the third highest points-per-game average among NESCAC first-years was Rothkopf, who totaled four goals and one assist, adding the game-winner against Bowdoin in the conference semifinals and also against Rhode Island College in a 1-0 contest. Providing speed in the midfield are Chris Skayne, Thebe Tsatsimpe and Ty Wilson, with Skayne returning with 16 games of experience under his belt. After demonstrating potential throughout the season, Skayne turned it on toward the end of the season and jumped into a leading role during Amherst’s NCAA Tournament game against WNEC, as he played exceptional defense and was a major factor in the thrilling comeback victory.

Coach Serpone’s first recruiting class at Amherst includes a pair of first-years at each position: forwards Jae Heo and James Mooney, defenders Dave Masterman and Sam Kaplan, midfielders Henry Rouse and T.J. Kelley, and goalkeepers Zack Porges and Lennard Kovacs. The Lord Jeffs will also welcome junior transfer Greg Genco, a 2007 All-NESCAC Second Team selection out of Connecticut College. Genco was the lone sophomore to garner All-Conference honors last year, as he recorded one goal and two assists to lead the Camels into the postseason. Rounding out the newcomers is assistant coach Chris Doney, who will be making his collegiate coaching debut.

Season Outlook
Brian Hamm returns to the Amherst coaching staff to specialize in working with the Lord Jeffs' goalkeepers for a fourth season, while assistant coach Jamie Mullarkey joins Coach Serpone on the sidelines for a second season. Despite the loss of such a talented graduating class, this year’s seniors are loaded with enough talent to lead Amherst back to the top of the NESCAC. With a promising rookie class joining an already-deep squad, look for the Jeffs to make a run at the program’s first-ever conference title and third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Amherst will have its calendar marked for Saturday, Sept. 13, when the Jeffs travel to take on defending NESCAC and NCAA champion Middlebury in the opening weekend of conference games.