Amherst men’s soccer was shut out for the first time this season, dropping its NESCAC semifinal match to Middlebury 1-0. The upset was the team’s first loss of the year, lowering the Mammoths’ overall record to 14-1-2.
Amherst came out of the gate a bit slow with some sloppy play and poor clearances. Similarly to the 1-1 double-overtime tie with Middlebury on Sept. 29, the Mammoths outshot the Panthers overall but gave up a crucial early goal.
Middlebury forward Ben Potter shocked the Hitchcock Field crowd in the 16th minute with what would prove to be the game-winning goal. Potter curled a screaming shot from the top of the box off the left post and into the back of the net; the score marked Amherst’s first goal allowed since the team’s Oct. 26 contest against Bates.
After an uncharacteristic offensive start, the Amherst attack turned up the pressure in the second half, launching 13 of its 19 total shots. Forward Dane Lind ’20 provided most of the offense; in the 69th minute, Lind smashed a missile towards the bottom corner, but Panther defender Henry Wilhelm made a stunning goal line clearance. Lind kept knocking on the door, sending two rockets just over the crossbar in the 70th and 76th minutes.
With five minutes left in the contest, the Mammoths removed a centerback, leaving three defenders as support and adding an attacker to the equation. Eventually, with the score 1-0 and time running out, even goalie Bernie White ’22 sprinted up from goal to get into the box for a final chance. The ball pinballed out to the feet of defender Gabe Gitler ’21, who sent the final chance of the game just high of the goal.
With the win, the Panthers advanced to the NESCAC Championship match, where they would fall to Tufts 2-1.
While losing is never fun, the post-game consensus in the Amherst stands was that the loss might be a blessing in disguise. With the DIII postseason tournament approaching, a humbling loss and the extra rest that comes with it might help the Mammoths in their quest for another national championship trophy.
On Monday afternoon, the Mammoths received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship tournament, securing a first-round matchup against Thomas College at Keene State University in Keene, New Hampshire, on Nov. 16. NESCAC winners Tufts faces State University of New York Maritime in the first round, while Middlebury will face Johnson and Wales College.