Lord Jeffs Top Rival Panthers 3-0 at Home

James Mooney scored on a wicked 30-yard strike
to seal Amherst's 3-0 win over Middlebury.

AMHERST, Mass. – The Amherst College men’s soccer team played host to NESCAC rival Middlebury College this afternoon on a cool and cloudy day at Hitchcock Field in Amherst, Mass. The Lord Jeffs scored a trio of beautiful goals en route to a 3-0 victory, improving to 6-2-0 (3-2-0 NESCAC) on the year. The Panthers drop to 4-3-2 (1-2-2 NESCAC) with the loss.

The Amherst-Middlebury matchup has become one of the best rivalries in the New England region in recent years, with back-to-back New England Small College Athletic Conference championship games pitting the two sides against one another. With today’s win, Amherst extended its unbeaten streak against Middlebury on Hitchcock Field to five games.

Leading the Jeffs in the effort were junior Ian Rothkopf (Harvard, Mass.) and rookie Spencer Noon (Farmington, Conn.) with a goal and an assist apiece, while sophomore goalie Lennard Kovacs (Wolfersdorf, Germany) posted a the 14th shutout of his career. The Lord Jeff defense has held its opposition scoreless in five of the team’s six wins this season.

Neither team presented a threat to score until the 26th minute, when Amherst was awarded a free kick on the corner of the Middlebury penalty box. Senior winger Chris Devine (Auburn, Wash.) lofted a dangerous ball off the free kick into the six-yard box, but an Amherst player was whistled for a foul while trying to find the end of the pass.

Moments later, Amherst opened the day’s scoring with Devine serving as the playmaker again. Devine knocked down a long entry pass with a flick of his head, springing Noon free. The first-year strike met the re-direction in stride, smashing his first-touch shot past Middlebury goalie Tim Cahill.

Noon’s tally stood as the only score heading into halftime, with Amherst holding just a 4-3 edge in shots at the break. The Jeffs had a 4-2 advantage in corner kicks in the frame, while 21 fouls and one card were issued in a physical opening half.

Early in the second half, Middlebury increased its pressure on the Amherst defense, as the Lord Jeffs struggled to connect passes. With the Panthers committing numbers forward, Amherst was able to score a second goal in the 58th minute, this time against the run of play. Noon broke down the left side of the Middlebury 18-yard box, froze one Panther defender and whipped a perfect cross into a streaking Rothkopf for a header inside the six. Cahill was left exposed on the play, with no chance at keeping Rothkopf’s bid out of the back of the net.

With just under 22 minutes to play, Rothkopf set up another goal, sealing the result for Amherst at 3-0. First-year substitute Robert Gooden (Atlanta, Ga.) carried the ball up the left side and found Rothkopf in the middle of the pitch. The Amherst midfielder squared a pass to his right for sophomore James Mooney (Princeton, N.J.) to run onto at full speed. Mooney’s first touch on the rolling ball was a screaming strike that grazed off the bottom of the crossbar and into the Middlebury net from nearly 30 yards out.

Three minutes later, Middlebury forward Zach Smith found the ball at his feet during a broken play at the top of the Amherst 18-yard box. Smith turned to fire on net as goalie Kovacs was off his line, but the Amherst stopper was up to the test, making the save to preserve his clean sheet.

Kovacs finished the day with four saves to preserve the shutout win, his second straight and fifth of the season. Cahill made four saves in net for Middlebury, giving up three goals for just the first time in 2009.

The Lord Jeffs will travel to face local foe Elms College on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m., while Middlebury will host Castleton State midweek in non-conference play.