Jeffs Pull Away from Middlebury in Quarters, 4-0
Contact: Matthew Hart
AMHERST, Mass. – Eight different Jeffs factored into the scoring as the second-seeded Amherst College men’s soccer team pulled away from No. 7 Middlebury College for a 4-0 win in Saturday’s NESCAC Quarterfinal from Hitchcock Field.
The Lord Jeffs improved to 13-0-2 with the win and advance to next Saturday’s semifinals, hosted by Williams, where they will face No. 3 Wesleyan after the Cardinals topped sixth-seeded Trinity, 2-1. The top-seeded Ephs knocked off No. 8 Connecticut College, 2-1, and will battle fourth-seeded Tufts in the other semifinal after the Jumbos shut out No. 5 Bowdoin, 3-0, to round out quarterfinal play.
Middlebury ended its season at 6-7-1, failing to avenge its 2-1 double overtime loss to Amherst in last year’s conference semifinals and the Jeffs’ 2-0 regular season victory this September. The rivals now stand at 4-4-2 all-time in NESCAC Championship play.
Federico Sucre ’13 started off the scoring for Amherst in the 32nd minute and Spencer Noon ’13, Max Fikke ’14, and Ben Norton ’14 each tallied second-half goals for the Jeffs to protect the shutout for keeper Thomas Bull ’16, who punctuated a strong day in goal with a booming assist on Noon’s score.
Amherst played the role of aggressor early, with its first chance coming after seven minutes when Jae Heo ’14 collected a corner kick and sent a high pass into the box. Gabriel Wirz ’15 was able to get a head on the ball but his shot was batted by Middlebury keeper Zach Abdu-Glass ’13 and cleared by the defense.
Middlebury was soon able to answer with an attack of its own when a combination in the midfield gave leading scorer Alvand Hajizadeh ’13 a chance at the top of the box, but Bull got a hand on his powerful left-footed shot, saving the Amherst defense.
With play balancing out for much of the first half, the Jeffs drew first blood in the 32nd minute when Heo beat his defender and dribbled on the end line for a cross, which Sucre headed in for his fifth goal of the year. Heo’s helper marked his league-leading eighth assist.
The Jeffs nearly struck again in the 40th, with Rob Gooden ’14 making a nice move to evade a defender in the midfield and draw the foul. The set piece, taken by Lerner, was headed by Heo over to Fikke who had a point blank chance at goal. Fikke one-timed the ball with another header but it was saved by the attentive Abdu-Glass.
With the Jeffs gaining momentum from the goal, Middlebury ended the half staying in their defensive half of the field, as Amherst took an 8-2 shot advantage into the locker room.
The second half opened with an aggressive attack from Amherst and the Jeffs found insurance with a unique goal in the 57th minute. Bull sent a strong punt over the defense giving Noon the chance to race past the Panther backline, meet the ball, and drive it low past Abdu-Glass.
Amherst kept up the attack, substituting frequently and eventually tallying a pair of late goals. In the 78th minute, Mikey Hoeksema ’15 won a ball and sent it wide to Casey McNamara ’13 who sent a through ball to Julien Aoyama ’14 in the box. Aoyama maneuvered around a defender on the right side and sent a short ball into the center of the box which Fikke popped in for his third of the season.
Moments later, the Jeffs struck again off of a corner, when Hoeksema sent a low ball into the box. Norton was there first, finishing the helper for his third tally of 2012 and bringing Hoeksema even with Heo at eight assists on the year.
Abdu-Glass and Bull each recorded a pair of saves as the Jeff defense held fast for its 13th shutout of the season. Amherst finished with a 14-5 advantage in shots and an 11-1 edge in corners.
The Jeffs’ semifinal match with Wesleyan will mark the squads’ second clash in as many weeks, with the rivals playing to a 1-1 draw on Oct. 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. from Williamstown, following Williams and Tufts’ 11 a.m. tilt.
2012 NESCAC Men's Soccer Championships
Saturday, Oct. 27
No. 1 Williams 2, No. 8 Connecticut College 1
No. 2 Amherst 4, No. 7 Middlebury 0
No. 3 Wesleyan 2, No. 6 Trinity 1
No. 4 Tufts 3, No. 5 Bowdoin 0
Saturday, Nov. 3 (at Williams)
No. 4 Tufts vs. No. 1 Williams, 11 a.m.
No. 3 Wesleyan vs. No. 2 Amherst, 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 4
Semifinal Winners - 12 p.m.