Amherst Teams Set for NCAA Play This Weekend
AMHERST, MA - With winter seasons less than one week away, a number of fall teams head into NCAA Tournament play this weekend with hopes of winning a national championship still alive. The Amherst field hockey team will host Husson College on Wednesday night in a First Round game, while the men’s and women’s soccer teams open play on Saturday afternoon. Additionally, the Lord Jeff cross country teams will head to Southern Maine on Saturday for NCAA Districts.
The women’s soccer team is the only squad to earn hosting honors for the weekend’s action, as the Lord Jeffs face-off against Eastern Connecticut State University on Saturday at 11 a.m. on Hitchcock Field. Following the Amherst-ECSU game, perennial powers Plattsburgh State University and The College of New Jersey will square off at Amherst.
Amherst (12-3-1) last played in the NESCAC Semifinals at Williams College over the weekend, with the second-seeded Lord Jeffs falling to third-seed Middlebury College 1-0. Despite the loss, Amherst remained ranked third in the NCAA Regional Rankings, which was good enough for an at-large bid and hosting rights. ECSU (12-5-3) enters the 2009 NCAA Tournament after winning the Little East Conference championship with a 1-0 victory over Keene State College.
Amherst and ECSU played once this season, with the Jeffs pulling out a 2-0 road non-conference win on October 15th. During that game, Amherst rookie Emily Little (Sherborn, MA) scored a pair of goals in the win, as Amherst out shot ECSU 14-5 on the day.
The winner of the Amherst-ECSU game will move onto to Sunday’s 1 p.m. second round game against either Plattsburgh or TCNJ. The Plattsburgh Cardinals finished the regular season with a 10-5-3 record, including a 2-0-1 run against top-20 opposition in the final weeks. Plattsburgh tied Middlebury 1-1 in non-conference play, before edging NCAA-bound Ithaca 2-1. TCNJ (16-2-1) enters the NCAA Tournament after winning the NJAC Tournament on penalty kicks over the weekend. After topping Williams Patterson 3-0, TCNJ battled to a scoreless double-overtime tie against Richard Stockton in the final, before winning 7-6 on penalty kicks.
The Amherst men’s soccer team entered the NESCAC Tournament seeded third in the conference, but fell to No. 6 Middlebury 2-1 on a 90th minute goal in the quarterfinal round of play. The Jeffs (11-3-1) were granted an at-large bid based on their regional ranking, which give them a shot to repeat on last year’s Final Four run. Amherst will travel to face Salem State (9-8-0) at York College in Pennsylvania on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The Vikings grabbed the MASCAC’s automatic bid with a 1-0 win over Westfield State in the final this weekend.
Prior to Amherst’s game, the host Spartans (15-1-4) will face Cazenovia (12-6-1). York punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament by winning the CAC with a 2-1 victory over Stevenson. York’s only loss this season came to Christopher Newport on October 3, and the Spartans have rolled off a 7-0-2 record since then. The hosts will face Cazenovia, who won the NEAC Tournament with a 2-1 overtime victory over the University of Dallas yesterday. The two winners from Saturday will face on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. with a spot in the Round of 16 on the line.
Amherst’s cross country teams will travel north to compete in the NCAA District Championships this weekend, with their eyes pointed directly on the NCAA National Championship race. Last weekend the women and men took third and fourth, respectively, at the ECAC Championships at Williams College. With the ECAC results, and strong finishes at NESCACs, Amherst has put itself in a solid position heading into this Saturday’s Districts. The top two teams in each the men’s and women’s races will automatically qualify for the NCAA Nationals, with teams 3-5 becoming eligible for at-large bids. Saturday’s competition will take place at Twin Brook Farms XC Course in Cumberland, Maine, with the women starting at 11 a.m. and the men at 12 p.m.