Men's soccer brings Polar Bears out of hibernation

Playing under the lights of Springfield College’s new turf field on Wednesday night, Amherst dominated from the first minutes of the game. Sophomore Taylor Downs buried his fourth goal of the season in the 12th minute, and Amherst continued to challenge Springfield’s goalkeeper, B.J. Sturdivant, with nine total shots in the first half. On the Jeffs’ defensive side, senior goalkeeper Greg Lockwood came through for Amherst with three saves, allowing the Jeffs to move into the second half with a one-goal lead.

The Jeffs’ impressive play did not diminish after the break, as Amherst refused to relent in its attack on the Springfield goal. Trapping the cross with his chest and then striking a fantastic left-footed volley off the far post and into the back of the net, junior Rob Madden converted a feed from sophomore Ryan O’Donnell just eight minutes into the second half for a 2-0 lead. Amherst remained strong until Springfield’s Chad Bonnell retaliated for the Pride in the 82nd minute with his first goal of the season, making it a one-goal game. The final minutes were a dogfight to maintain the lead, but the Jeffs held their ground and returned to Amherst later that night with a 2-1 win.

Saturday brought a much more formidable opponent to Amherst’s Hitchcock Field: NES-CAC foe Bowdoin College. Having lost to Bowdoin in the preliminary stages of the 2004 NESCAC Tournament, Amherst sought retribution. Bowdoin, however, decisively set the pace of the game with a goal by midfielder John Hollis at the 10:23 mark. Although the Amherst men have previously struggled to come from behind, they leveled the score just a few minutes later when first-year defender Grayson Holland sent a long ball into Amherst’s offensive third, where junior forward Mike Wohl beat three defenders to volley the air ball into the upper-left corner for his first goal of the season. Shortly after, rookie forward Jake Duker echoed Wohl’s success with a goal of his own, drilling a throw-in by sophomore defender John Kneeland into the lower-right corner of the Bowdoin goal.

Unfortunately, the Jeffs couldn’t maintain their torrid pace in the second half. “We fought hard to come back from behind, but once we got the lead we let our momentum slide and started to play not to lose instead of to win,” explained Kneeland. This wane in drive allowed Polar Bear striker Simon Parsons to level the score about 15 minutes into the half. After the equalizer, the game remained at a stalemate, forcing the competitors into overtime.

With the game on the line, both teams fought to gain and maintain offensive possession. Unfortunately, it was Bowdoin who received the final scoring opportunity when the referee called a controversial Amherst foul just outside the 18 on what spectators agree was clearly a Bowdoin hand-ball. Bowdoin defender Dominic Fitzpatrick served a dangerous ball into the Amherst box where Bowdoin forward Wolf Grueber got a head on it, forwarding the ball off the left post and into the back of the net in spectacular fashion. Bowdoin enjoyed an ostentatious, on-field celebration as the defeated Jeffs left the field with their first regular season NESCAC home loss since 2003.

“It was a really tough loss,” said Lockwood. “Very frustrating, very sad, very difficult to feel good about anything that happened after the first half. I guess the thing right now is just moving on. Things are going to get better. We are a special team bound for special things.”

With only six regular season games remaining, however, Amherst must come through with wins in these next few weeks if the Jeffs want to extend their play into the NESCAC Tournament and through the postseason. The Jeffs will face their next opponent at 4:30 this afternoon on the fields of NESCAC adversary Connecticut College.