Men's Soccer to Host NCAA Sectionals
Contact: Mike O'Brien
AMHERST, Mass. – Winning the first and second rounds by a combined 8-0, the Amherst College men’s soccer team (17-0-2) advanced to the NCAA Championship Sectionals and will host three games at Hichcock Field this weekend. On Saturday, Nov. 23, Williams College (13-6) will square off against Brandeis University (16-4-1) at 11 a.m. followed by No. 2 Amherst against No. 16 St. Lawrence (17-2-2) at 1:30 p.m. The winners of Saturday’s games will meet at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24.
Men’s Sections (Saturday, Nov. 23)
11 a.m. - Williams College vs. Brandeis University
1:30 p.m. - Amherst College vs. St. Lawrence University
Men’s Sectionals (Sunday, Nov. 24)
1:30 p.m. - Winners of Saturday’s games
A live webcast will be provided for all weekend games. Click here.
Ticket prices will be $6 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and students with a valid ID, and $2 for children ages 3-12.
No. 2 AMHERST COLLEGE (17-0-2, 8-0-2 NESCAC)
The Jeffs return to the NCAA Championship for the eighth-consecutive season and have earned a berth to the postseason tournament in each of head coach Justin Serpone’s seven years at the helm. Amherst has made 13 total appearances and are 17-9-6 overall. On Saturday, they get their first look at St. Lawrence this season, a team they have faced several times in postseason play. Amherst met the Saints in a second round matchup in 2010 and came away victorious, 3-2. Julien Aoyama ’14 recorded two assists in that game. The Jeffs also claimed a 1-0 win against St. Lawrence in 2008 in the second round but fell 1-0 in the 2002 NCAA regional round.
AMHERST’S ROAD TO THE SECTIONALS
Entering the season riding a 20-game unbeaten streak, the Jeffs looked poised to extend that number from opening day. Rattling off four straight wins by a combined 13-3, Amherst was 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the NESCAC entering its Sept. 18 matchup against Conn. College. Despite holding a decisive 16-7 edge in shots, the Jeffs couldn’t find the back of the net as they played to a scoreless double-overtime draw for their first tie of the season.
The following game, and just three days later, the Jeffs hit the road for a Little Three rivalry game against Williams. For the second consecutive game, Amherst was held scoreless through three periods. However, with under four minutes to play in double overtime, Max Fikke ’14 slotted the ball under the outstretched arms of the Elphs goalkeeper to give the Jeffs a 1-0 win.
Following back-to-back wins against Tufts and Bates respectively, Amherst found themselves in their third double-overtime game of the season. Trailing Hamilton 1-0 with 15 minutes remaining in regulation, Nico Pascual-Leone ’16 tied the game with a diving header as the game eventually ended in a draw. Since then, the Jeffs rallied five-straight wins with four-consecutive shutouts to close out the regular season and outscored opponents 12-1 in that span.
The momentum carried into the NESCAC Championship. As the top-seed, the Jeffs swept through its competition en route to their third-straight conference title. Following a decisive 4-1 win against Hamilton in the quarterfinals, Justin Aoyama ’17 connected on a deep game-winner from outside the 18-yard box to give Amherst the 2-1 double-overtime win over Bowdoin. The final featured a rematch of last year between Amherst and Williams. In the 48th minute, Fikke once again scored the game-winner against their archrival off a header, with the goalie out of position, as the Jeffs went on to win its third-straight title and fourth overall.
Amherst hasn’t slowed down one bit in NCAA tournament action. Claiming a 3-0 win against Bridgewater in the first round, they followed up with a 5-0 shutout versus Gordon. Nico Pascual-Leone ’16 has shined thus far, recording two goals and four assists in two games. First Team All-NESCAC selection, Max Fikke ’15, added two goals in the win over Gordon as the Jeffs cruised past their opponents.
On Oct. 29, the Jeffs earned their first No. 1 ranking in program history. At 17-0-2, they are one of only two remaining undefeated teams in Division III. With an extremely well-balanced attack, Amherst excels in all facets of the game. Offensively, they have 47 team goals with 10 players scoring at least two or more. First-year Christopher Martin leads the team and ranks third in the NESCAC with eight goals. Of those eight goals, three were game-winners. Nico Pascual-Leone ’16 leads all Jeffs with 21 points on six goals and nine assists. He ranks third in the league in points and tops among league leaders in assists. Greg Singer ’16 has seven goals and four assists (18 points) to rank third on the team in points and Bubba Van Wie ’15 has five goals following a hat-trick in the regular-season finale.
Goalkeeper Thomas Bull ’16 anchors an Amherst defense that has allowed just eight goals all season for a league-best 0.41 goals-against average. He is credited with 10 of the team’s 11 shutouts and boasts a .822 save percentage. His 0.41 GAA ranks fourth in the country.
The Jeffs are extremely efficient as a team and have a commanding 387 to 135 advantage in shots and 122-71 edge in corner kicks. They have won 10-straight and are unbeaten in 39 games entering Saturday’s matchup. Head coach Justin Serpone earned his 100th career victory in the regular-season finale against Trinity and is the second winningest active coach in Division III men’s soccer with a .837 win percentage (105-14-16 record).
No. 16 ST. LAWRENCE UNIVERSITY (17-2-2, 7-1-0 Liberty League)
Earning the automatic berth from the Liberty League, the Saints make their fourth consecutive NCAA Championship appearance and 18th overall. They are 26-15-2 all-time in the postseason tournament and won the NCAA title in 1999.
ROAD TO THE SECTIONALS
The Saints enter the sectionals riding a six-game winning streak. After claiming their fifth Liberty League title since 2004 with a 3-1 win against Skidmore, St. Lawrence rolled through its first and second round opponents in the NCAA Championship. On Friday, Nov. 16, the Saints netted four second half goals led by sophomore Dan Hunt’s hat-trick as they handed Thomas College a 5-1 defeat. They held a significant 26-3 margin in shots and 9-0 edge in corners.
The next day, St. Lawrence shut out Wheaton in the second round with a decisive 8-0 victory. The eight goals were a NCAA program record as the Liberty League member received another hat-trick from Ryan Grant ’16 who recorded his first-ever three-goal game. Andrew Bednarsky ’14 added two as well as the Saints rolled past the Lyons.\
SCOUTING THE SAINTS
St. Lawrence is led by its stellar defensive play and is anchored by its star goalkeeper, Aaron Costello’15. Costello, the Liberty League Defensive Player of the Year, leads the nation with a 0.24 goals-against average and has allowed only five all season. His 49 saves and 0.907 save percentage rank second in Division III. With a 17-1-2 record to his name, the junior has also been credited with 16 shutouts this season. As a team, the Saints lead the country in shutout percentage (0.79), rank second in team GAA (0.36) and third in save percentage (0.885).
Andrew Bednarsky ’14 highlights the team on the offensive side and was named the 2013 Liberty League Player of the Year. The senior midfielder ranks second in the conference with 26 points on nine goals (5th in the Liberty League) and eight assists (2nd in the league). Holding the top mark among conference leaders in assists is midfielder Mark Provost ’15. The junior has nine on the season and adds six goals for 21 total points. The Saints have seven all-conference selections on their team and garnered Coaching Staff of the Year praise as well.
WILLIAMS COLLEGE (13-6, 6-4 NESCAC)
The Ephs earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, marking their 18th appearance, and are 34-14-9 overall. Williams has one national title, claiming the championship crown in 1995, and was also the runner-up in 1993.
ROAD TO THE SECTIONALS
The Ephs fell 1-0 to Amherst in the NESCAC final but retaliated in the NCAA tournament, outscoring opponents 8-1 in the first two rounds. In its first matchup against Elms, four different Ephs scored as they defeated the Blazers in a 4-0 shutout. Williams controlled the tempo of the game and outshot their opponents 28-5 and held a 9-2 edge in corners.
They carried their momentum into the next day and scored four more goals en route to a 4-1 win against Western New England. Despite trailing 1-0 at halftime, Williams netted four goals within 16 minutes of play to claim the come-from-behind win. Jonathan Westling ’16 scored two goals in the win to lead the team while Chris Conder ’15 dished out two assists.
SCOUTING THE EPHS
Williams, ranked fourth in the league in scoring, is led by Matt Muralles ’15. The junior has seven goals on the season, tops among Ephs players, and ranks in a tie for fourth in the NESCAC. Dishing out assists on those goals are Chris Conder ’15 and Mohammed Rashid ’16. With six and five assists, respectively, Conder and Rashid rank third and fifth among league leaders.
On the defensive side, Ephs keeper Peter Morrell ’14 has been a force between the posts. Logging 1710:53 minutes on the pitch, the senior leads the NESCAC with 72 saves, good for a .809 save percentage (5th in the conference). He has started every game for Williams and is 13-6 overall this season.
BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY (16-4, 3-3-1 UAA)
Brandeis received an at-large bid from the University Athletic Association and makes its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Championship. It marks the program’s 11th postseason trip and second since the 1985 season. Brandeis won the national championship in 1976 and was the runner-up in 1984.
ROAD TO THE SECTIONALS
The Judges are unbeaten in six-straight games entering Saturday and have won four-straight by a combined 9-0. In first round action, they swept Johnson & Wales 3-0 by scoring two quick goals within the first five minutes and another in the opening stanza of the second half. Mike Soboff '14 scored the game-winning goal and had two assists in the game to lead Brandeis.
The following day, they controlled play in a low scoring duel against Roger Williams, advancing to the Sweet 16 with a 1-0 win. The game’s only goal came in the 25th minute when Tyler Savonen ’15 headed in the game-winner off a cross pass from Ben Applefield ’14. Brandeis held a decisive 20-4 advantage in shots.
SCOUTING THE JUDGES
The Judges have a very well-balanced attack with seven players recording double-digit points. Highlighting the offensive prowess is Tyler Savonen ’15. Savonen leads the UAA in goals scored (12) and is tied for the league lead in points (28). Alongside the star junior are Michael Soboff ’17, Kyle Feather ’14, and Ben Applefield ’14. Applefield and Soboff rank tied atop the league with one other in assists (10) while Soboff also ranks fourth in the UAA in points (22). Feather has recorded nine goals this season, good for sixth in the league, and coupled that with his five assists, the senior’s 23 points are fifth-best in the conference.
Defensively, Joe Graffy ’15 anchors the squad with 1639:27 minutes logged between the posts. His eight shutouts are a league-best and the junior keeper posts a 0.88 goals-against average and .771 save percentage with 54 saves.