Amherst Advances to NCAA Sectional Finals for First Time Since 1997; Jeffs Earn 1-0 Win at Swarthmore

Jae Heo
Rookie Jae Heo scored the biggest goal of his young
career at Amherst for the game-winner.

Courtesy of Swarthmore College

SWARTHMORE, PA - The Amherst College men's soccer team defeated the host-Swartmore College side 1-0 this evening in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16. Amherst will face top-ranked Trinity (TX) tomorrow night at 6 p.m. with a spot in the Final Four on the line.

This marks only the second time Amherst has earned a spot in the NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament Sectional Finals, as the 1997 squad advanced all the way to the national semifinals before falling to The College of New Jersey, 2-1, to finish the season at 12-5-2.

This year's team brings an impressive 14-3-3 mark to the national quarterfinals with hopes of winning at least 15 games for a second straight season, as last year's Lord Jeffs went 15-2-1.

Since getting off to a shaky 5-3 start with a 2-3 mark in NESCAC play, Amherst has posted a 9-0-3 record and claimed the program's first conference title to become one of the hottest teams in the nation.

Saturday's nightcap saw the temperatures (30 degrees at kickoff) drop even lower as the Clothier Field stands filled to capacity with the hometown Garnet on the pitch.  The visiting Lord Jeffs matched Swarthmore's trade-mark physical play from the opening seconds;  the final foul total would be 24-16 with Amherst on top.

A scoreless half seemed to be developing until the Lord Jeffs hustled to execute a throw-in down the left side of the Swarthmore end.  With 25 seconds remaining, Amherst senior Rory O'Connor (West Boylston, Mass.) hurled the ball into the Garnet box and a Swarthmore clear attempt shot straight up in the air.  Amherst senior Grayson Holland (Sudbury, Mass.) flicked a header across the box and teammate Jae Heo (ChangWon, South Korea) got his left toe on the loose ball.  Heo's shot beat Garnet goalkeeper David D'Annunzio (Piedmont, Calif.) to the right side for his 12th goal of the season.

The Lord Jeffs played stellar defense and fended off the Swarthmore offense attack in the second half, denying three corner-kick opportunities.  The best chance for the Garnet came when a free kick by freshman Roberto Contreras IV (Sugar Land, Texas) banged off the far post and out the other side of the box.

Amherst goalkeeper Lennard Kovacs (Wolfersdorf, Germany) made two saves for eighth shutout of the season, while D'Annunzio also posted a pair of saves for Swarthmore. Kovacs has recorded six consecutive shutouts for Amherst, and has not allowed a post-season score as Amherst holds a 7-0 edge in goals during that period.