Men's soccer: Jeffs keeping NCAAs in sight

Last year, Amherst was seeded third and faced sixth-seed Wesleyan University in the opening round of postseason play at home. The Jeffs were up 1-0 with just over 10 minutes remaining when the Cardinals tied the game up to send it into overtime, and, eventually, a penalty kick shootout. The shootout went into the ninth round before Amherst finally gave out. This heartbreaking loss must surely be on the minds of the Jeffs as they enter into the 2004 season.

The loss should not diminish Amherst’s fine play in the regular season, however. The Jeffs ended up with an impressive record of 10-3-2 (6-2-1 NESCAC).

Many talented and experienced athletes return to the Amherst squad. The Jeffs will be led by co-captain seniors Andrew Syfu and Matt Langione. Syfu, the 2001 NESCAC Rookie of the Year, will lead the Jeff defense. Langione should fight for minutes in an extremely strong midfield.

“Langione was sidelined this summer by illness, but hopefully he’ll battle back into the lineup when the season starts,” said sophomore Mike Wohl. “And Syfu is amazing. He anchors our defense, which should be very solid.”

Additionally, Joe Gannon ’06 will be a force once again from the striker position. Gannon scored six goals in his sophomore season after winning the NESCAC Rookie of the Year in 2002 and earned Second-Team All-NESCAC honors last season.

Junior Greg Lockwood should be stellar once again in 2004. The third-year starting goalkeeper finished second in the NESCAC in saves per game (5.58).

Though many players return, the Jeffs lose a large portion of the 2003 edition to graduation-nine members of the class of 2004, to be exact, including quad-captain Franklin Perry. Perry earned Second-Team NSCAA/Adidas All-America and First-Team All-NESCAC honors in his senior season, ending a notable four-year tenure with the Jeffs. Perry led the Jeffs in scoring three of four seasons, winning NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors in 2000.

The Jeffs also lose quad-captains Jeff Cantwell ’04 and Tim Canon ’04, both excellent leaders and Second-Team All-NESCAC picks last year. The loss of so many seniors leaves this year’s squad a good deal younger and less experienced than the 2003 team. However, Amherst carried 35 players on roster last season who have the benefit of at least practicing on the collegiate level.

In addition, the class of 2007 looks strong. Two first-years have really stood out in in the first week of preseason play. Both Kevin Dolan and Taylor Downs will make an immediate impact on the field and will compete for starting positions. Even if they do not start, both will likely see significant playing time as the year progresses.

The Jeffs will be tested early in the 2004 season. On Sept. 4, Amherst faces Wesleyan and Yale University in scrimmages at Yale. Hopefully, the Jeffs will avenge their playoff loss and see how they match up to a Div. I soccer program as a preseason tune-up.

During the season, the three biggest tests for the Jeffs will be their final three games. From Oct. 23 to Oct. 31, Amherst will face Connecticut, Wesleyan and Williams Colleges, three teams that handed the Jeffs losses in 2003.

Amherst is ready to take revenge. “We’re really looking forward to playing and beating the three teams that beat us last year, but we have to play hard in every game,” said Wohl.

The 2004 season should be an exciting one, as the team fights through losing so much senior leadership. The team is young, but should have great success in 2004. Amherst hopes to go farther into the NESCAC playoffs and even into the NCAA Tournament this season.

“Our goal this and every year is to make NCAAs. This year we have a great shot,” said Wohl.