Amherst entered last Saturday’s NESCAC showdown at Middlebury ranked 17th in the nation and third in New England, and was at the top of the league standings. Middlebury stood near the top of the standings, but had just suffered its first loss of the year at the hands of Bowdoin.
The Jeffs got off to their usual aggressive start, jumping ahead 1-0 as sophomore forward Mike Wohl capitalized on a feed from forward Joe Gannon ’06 just 5:37 into the game.
Amherst maintained the pressure and held onto a one-goal lead into the second half. Junior midfielder Ben Lavely then put Amherst up 2-0 to start the second frame, beating Panther goalie Craig Hirsh on a penalty kick.
Middlebury would not lie still, however, as the Panthers’ John Rusten found the net and narrowed the lead to 2-1. Kellan Florio then came through in the clutch, scoring a goal with just over a minute in regulation to send the game into overtime.
Panther David LaRocca needed only five minutes in the sudden-victory extra frame to seal the deal for Middlebury, scoring on a bicycle kick in front of the net. The loss ended the Jeffs high hopes for an undefeated Amherst season.
The Jeffs then traveled to Springfield, Mass., on Wednesday, Oct. 13 to play a non-conference game against WNEC. This time, the opponent struck first, but the outcome was different. The Golden Bears wasted no time in getting on the board, as Tim Larocca needed just 25 seconds to slice through the Amherst defense and give his team a 1-0 lead.
Amherst remained composed and refused to stay behind for long, as first-year midfielder Taylor Downs and senior co-captain defender Andrew Syfu found junior forward Christian Alexander, who recorded his first goal of the year.
The score was locked for the next 72 minutes until Gannon added to his league-high assist total of six, finding junior Ian Lovett for the go-ahead goal in the 78th minute.
Gannon, who was named NESCAC Player of the Week the previous week, also added an insurance goal just minutes later off of a dish from junior forward Adrien de Bontin. Senior Dan Glenn collected three stops in the net en route to the Jeffs’ victory.
“Despite the hiccup at Middlebury, we are playing well now and are confident that if we can play to our potential, we can still finish on top of the league,” said junior midfielder Jay Kloppenberg.
The Jeffs returned home to continue their quest for the league title, hosting Colby College on Saturday.
Rookie John Kneeland netted his first career goal 15 minutes into the game to put the Jeffs up 1-0. Wohl then added to his NESCAC-high goals total with his ninth score of the season to put the Jeffs up by a pair just before the close of the first half.
Kloppenberg recorded his first assist of the season on the play. The two goals proved to be more than enough as Amherst would hold on for a 2-0 win. Goalies Greg Lockwood ’06 and Glenn combined their efforts to secure the Jeffs’ fifth shutout this year.
“This was one of the better teams Colby has had in a while, so it was nice to be able to get a solid win,” said Kloppenberg.
Amherst hopes to maintain its NESCAC lead Wednesday, as the Jeffs play host to the Connecticut College Camels before traveling to Wesleyan University on Saturday.
Alexander expressed the significance of Amherst’s upcoming matches. “While we have gotten off to a very good start this season, the next few games will be pivotal in determining our chances of going far in the national tournament,” he said.
Alexander is excited about the team’s potential for postseason success. “So far we have shown that we have the guts and the talent to get to the NCAA tournament,” said the junior forward. “We just need to maintain our momentum and continue getting good results.”