Jeffs Take Down Swarthmore, 2-1, Head to Elite 8
Contact: Matthew Hart
AMHERST, Mass. – Spencer Noon ’13 tallied a goal and an assist to lead the Amherst College men’s soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Swarthmore College in the NCAA Sectional Semifinal round Saturday at Hitchcock Field.
With the triumph, Amherst set a new program record for wins and goals in a season, improving to 17-0-2 and advancing to face Williams in Sunday’s final at 1:30 p.m. After falling in the Sweet 16 in 2010 and 2011, Amherst will seek its third-ever trip to the Final Four and first since 2008. Swarthmore ends its strong season at 16-3-2.
In a back-and-forth battle, Gabriel Wirz ’15 headed in a Noon corner to put Amherst on top late in the first half. The Jeffs padded their lead on Noon’s unassisted strike in the 52nd minute, but Noah Sterngold ’14 converted a penalty kick to bring Swarthmore within one at the 62:55 mark.
With even play early, neither side could generate strong scoring opportunities for much of the first half. Swarthmore had the first good attempt in the 25th minute when Wyatt McCall ’16 blasted a promising corner to the head of Jack Momeyer ’14, but his chance from near the left post flew wide.
Tense action continued, but it was Amherst finally connecting in the 39th minute which broke the deadlock. After Swarthmore keeper Peter Maxted ’14 made a brilliant diving save to bat a Federico Sucre ’13 header over the net, Noon blasted the ensuing corner kick toward the back post. Positioned perfectly, Wirz won the header, nodding his shot into the netting for a 1-0 Amherst lead.
Starting the second half aggressively, Swarthmore just missed in the 46th, when McCall’s corner found David Geschwind for a long header, but his uncontested look flew just high of the crossbar.
Amherst found insurance in the 53rd. After a near miss on a James Mooney ’13E header, Noon won a fight for possession on the right side of the box, finding space and blasting a low volley past Maxted into the left side of the net to put the hosts up, 2-0.
With Swarthmore continuing to generate looks, the visitors broke through in the 63rd after a foul in the box by Amherst gave Sterngold a penalty kick. The junior converted, beating Amherst keeper Thomas Bull ’16 and becoming just the third opponent to find the back of the Jeff net on the year.
Milton Rico ’15 nearly put Amherst back up by two in the 74th after collecting a Jae Heo ’14 set piece at the top of the 18, but his bending shot flew just inches high of the crossbar. Moments later, the sophomore came close again, collecting a Max Fikke ’14 throw in the box, but Maxted dove to his right to save the low volley and keep his team within striking distance.
The Garnet could not find the equalizer, however, as Amherst stayed on the attack in the closing minutes. Swarthmore had a last chance in the final seconds, but a frantic bicycle attempt at the top of the box by John Pontillo ’13 flew high and the clock expired to deliver the Jeffs to the Elite Eight.
With Sterngold’s penalty the lone Garnet shot on goal, Bull needed no saves for the win. Maxted finished with four saves as Amherst owned a 14-4 advantage in shots. The teams were knotted with six corners apiece.
Amherst and Williams will meet for the third time this season in Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. tilt, with the last clash between the rivals a 2-0 Jeff triumph in Williamstown for the NESCAC title. The teams return to Hitchcock Field after drawing, 0-0, on Amherst’s home pitch in the regular season.