Lord Jeffs Fall to Middlebury 2-1 on Late Goal in NESCAC Quarters

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AMHERST, MA – The 3rd-seeded Amherst College men’s soccer team played host to No. 6 seed, Middlebury College this afternoon in the Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NESCAC Championship Tournament. Middlebury’s Harrison Watkins (San Francisco, CA) scored both Panther goals in a 2-1 win, including the game-winner in the 90th minute of regulation.

Amherst nearly scored the game’s opening goal just 20 seconds into the game, after a long throw by senior winger Chris Devine (Auburn, MA) was flicked on by an Ian Rothkopf (Harvard, MA) header for rookie Casey McNamara (Montclair, NJ) to run onto in the six yard box. McNamara half-volleyed a shot on frame, but Middlebury keeper Tim Cahill (S. Glastonbury, CT) kept the shot out with a right-handed save.

In the 16th minute, Middlebury forward Andrew Banadda (Gaithersburg, MD) broke free down the right side of the Amherst goal box. Amherst goalie Lennard Kovacs (Wolfersdorf, Germany) met Banadda ten yards out to force a shot from a tough angle which caromed wide of the right post.

With 13 minutes to play in the first half, Amherst rookie Robert Gooden (Atlanta, GA) beat Cahill in a foot race to a bouncing ball in the Middlebury box. Gooden slid in, gained control and stood up behind the Panther keeper with possession. Gooden’s shot seconds later curved just wide of the left post.

With just six minutes to play in the first half, Middlebury took a 1-0 lead on a set piece just inside the Amherst half. After a long service, Mike Spiak (Andover, MA) flicked a header into the space in front of Kovacs. As the Amherst keeper came off his line, Harrison Watkins (San Francisco, CA) pounced on the ball and popped a one-touch shot over Kovacs and into the Amherst net.

In the 54th minute, Banadda broke in once again and hit a shot off a high bounce that Kovacs deflected down to senior co-captain Matt Lewis’s (Wayland, MA) feet to clear from danger.

Amherst nearly equalized in the 63rd minute as senior co-captain G.L. Genco (Hauppauge, NY) found Rothkopf with a second service on a Lord Jeff rush. Rothkopf rose in a crowd to win a header, but pushed the shot just wide of the Middlebury frame.

With just under 15 minutes remaining in the second half, Gooden was substituted in as a forward in exchange for Amherst defender Dave Masterman (Needham, MA). Just 32 seconds after entering the field, Gooden combined with Genco on a give and go, before playing a through ball for McNamara to run onto in the Middlebury box. As Cahill came off his line, McNamara slotted a calm finish underneath the Panther backstop to tie the game 1-1 with 14:11 to play.

With just two minutes to play in the second half, McNamara nearly scored again on another long Devine throw in. The speedy winger blasted his shot on the half-volley over the crossbar. Middlebury earned a corner kick from the right side of the field on the ensuing rush up the field, and made the late dead ball kick count when it mattered. Jake Edwards (Easton, CT) took the corner, and Watkins blasted home a diving header to put the Panthers on top 2-1, with just 48 seconds to play.

The score held up as the game-winner, as Amherst never got the ball into the Middlebury end in the final seconds. Cahill made two saves for Middlebury, while Kovacs turned away three shots for Amherst.

The Panthers advance to next weekend’s NESCAC semifinals where they will face top-seed and host Wesleyan University on Saturday. Amherst will have next weekend off, and hope to receive an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA Tournament on Monday.