Amherst Wins First NESCAC Title in Program History

Amherst's 2-0 win over Middlebury marked the first NESCAC title in program history.

Courtesy of Middlebury College Sports Information

MIDDLEBURY, VT – Amherst won its first NESCAC Men’s Soccer Championship title with a 2-0 victory over defending champion Middlebury College in Vermont. The Jeffs pick up their first title game win in four appearances, as they improve to 12-3-2 overall, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers move to 2-2-1 in NESCAC title games, 13-2-2 overall in ’08, and are expected to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA’s when the pairings are announced Sunday night.

Amherst came out strong with pressure on the Panthers for the first 30 minutes of the game. The Jeffs struck 15 minutes in when senior quad-captain Jake Duker (Newton, MA) scored his 13th goal in 16 games as he one-timed a low hard crossing pass from classmate Nick Lynch (Kingston, Jamaica) for the goal. The assist was Lynch’s team-leading ninth of the season.

Amherst struck again just 3:51 later as first-year sensation Jae Heo (Changwon, S. Korea) found the back of the net for his 11th goal of the year. Lynch made a centering pass to Duker, whose shot hit the post and rebounded right to Heo, as he gave his team a 2-0 lead early.

Middlebury came back for the final 15 minutes of the half with some pressure in the Amherst end, but could not get on the board. First-year Lennard Kovacs (Wolfersdorf, Germany) kept it a 2-0 game for the Jeffs with one save, as well as a nice deflection of a Stephen Hart shot over the crossbar.

After being out-shot 5-2 in the first half, Middlebury returned the favor in the second session. The Panthers pressured the Jeffs on several occasions, including five corner kicks and one direct kick between the 68th and 71st minutes of the second half.

The Amherst defense held tough and though Middlebury threatened, the Panthers did not have any great chances to break up the shutout.

Kovacs ended the game with three saves for his fifth shutout of the season, while Brian Bush made two saves for the Panthers. Kovacs did not allow a goal in the entire NESCAC tournament, as he posted shutouts in a 2-0 quarterfinal win over Wesleyan, a 1-0 semifinal win over Trinity and Sunday’s victory at Middlebury.

Amherst will head into the upcoming NCAA Tournament riding a nine-game unbeaten streak and four-game winning streak.