After rolling through the first four rounds of the NCAA DIII men’s soccer tournament, Amherst must conquer one more weekend of soccer to bring home a national championship trophy.
The Mammoths hosted the third and fourth rounds at Hitchcock Field on Nov. 23 and 24, taking on Rowan University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), respectively.
Rowan vanquished Salve Regina in round one, followed by an incredible double overtime upset of No. 15 Mary Washington to advance to the sweet 16 matchup with Amherst.
The Rowan Profs entered with a 3-0-1 record against top 25 teams. Forward Jay Vandermark, who scored 12 goals in 2019, came in hot after netting the game winner against Mary Washington. Rowan kept the potent Amherst offense at bay in the first half.
However, the Mammothscapitalized two minutes into the second half when forward Ada Okorogheye ’23 pounced on an errant pass from Rowan goalkeeper James Weinberg. Okorogheye then danced past the remaining defenders and powered home what would be the game-winning score.
Soon after, Dane Lind ’20 tallied his third goal of the tournament; he redirected a beautiful pass from Ignacio Cubeddu ’23 into the top right corner to double the Amherst lead. Bernie White ’22 and the Mammoth defense kept star forward Vandermark at bay and the Profs’ offense off of the scoreboard, and Amherst walked away with a 2-0 sweet 16 win.
Amherst then faced arguably its strongest opponent of the tournament in the game against RPI the next day.
Twelfth-ranked RPI battled through several tough opponents on the way to the elite eight matchup with Amherst, beating Eastern Nazarene, Middlebury (Amherst’s one loss of the season) and No. 8 Messiah College, which won its 11th national championship in 2017.
Unlike during its previous contest, the Mammoths came out hungry early, netting three goals in 25 minutes. NESCAC Player of the Year German Giammattei ’22 headed home a lofted pass from Okorogheye, marking his 23rd goal of the season. Extending his tournament goal-scoring streak to four games in the 23rd minute, Lind outhustled the RPI defense to a rebound and pounded it home to double the lead.
Just four minutes later, Sebastian Derby ’21 smashed a rocket off of the goalkeeper and into the right corner of the goal, giving the Mammoths a 3-0 lead entering halftime.
While RPI did spoil the clean sheet in the 71st minute with its only goal of the game, Amherst kept a solid grip on possession, earning a 3-1 win and a spot in the DIII final four.
This weekend, the Mammoths travel to Greensboro, North Carolina, hoping to finish the fight and bring home a trophy.
On Saturday, Dec. 6 at 5:45 p.m., Amherst takes on Cinderella story Centre College. Entering the tournament unranked, the Colonels boast an 11-4 goal differential in the first four rounds of the tournament and a 20-3-1 overall record.
In the other national semifinal, NESCAC rival No. 5 Tufts faces perennial powerhouse No. 2 Calvin College; the two squads played for the 2018 tournament title, with Tufts coming out on top.
The National Championship game will take place the next day, Dec. 7, at 7:00 p.m.; one can only imagine the intensity and allure of an Amherst vs. Tufts game for the throne of DIII soccer – a rematch for Amherst, who fell to the champions Tufts in the tournament last year.