Men’s Soccer Seeks Third Straight NCAA Title Appearance

Amherst men’s soccer looks to return to a third consecutive National Championship game appearance, but their sights are set on taking it one game at a time as their 2022 campaign begins this week.

Men’s Soccer Seeks Third Straight NCAA Title Appearance
Amherst men’s soccer lost the NCAA national championship in the final round last year. Photo courtesy of Clarus Studios.

If you were to ask pretty much anyone around campus what comes to mind when they think about the men’s soccer team, success would be a common answer. The Mammoths boasted an impressive 17-3-2 record last season, and their run only ended after they appeared in their second national championship game in as many seasons. But both trips to Greensboro ended in heartbreak, with the Mammoths returning to Amherst without a title. This season, their sights are set on bringing home a national championship to the program at long last.

These high hopes were echoed by senior captain Bernie White ’23E. “Last season was a great year,” he said. “We had a great group of guys. Had a good run. But [we are] looking forward to this year. We have to find our identity as a new group, settle ourselves, and make sure that we are progressing as a new team and are not trying to look too much back into the past.”

Senior Andrew Barkidjija ’23 agreed with White’s last point, saying that while “lots of guys graduated last year [who] were crucial to our program, that’s not to say we can’t do the same thing this year. In terms of team culture, bringing in new guys, we have a lot of new guys. A lot of hungry guys. I think this is a new chapter in our program. For us it’s important to keep moving, keep the momentum going. Last year was great but we are excited for this one as well.”

Despite the highly experienced players that the team lost, including two-time Division III Player of the Year German Giammattei ’22 (now playing in Division I at the University of Maryland), with six new members added to the roster — Andrew Tremante ’26, Adrian Trott ’26, Ioannis Hadjiyiannis ’26, Ugnius Salvenis ’26, James Street ’26, Juan Perez ’26, and transfer Simon Kalinauskas ’25 — the team hopes that this new influx of talent, combined with the old, can lead the team to early success in their first games of the season.

Head coach Justin Serpone explained what this exodus of players means for the team this year. Going into his 15th season with the program, Serpone said of this year’s team, “It is the same this year as it’s been for the last 15 years, which is we are starting over. And so we are setting a foundation for what we want to have as an identity this year and figuring out what that identity is. I think our philosophy ends up being ‘Hey let’s see what you got,’ and put people in the place to be successful, and the situations to be successful.”

However, the team will be tested early — their schedule ramps up right away, with chances to compete against top teams early in the season. “In terms of this upcoming season, I am very excited,” said forward Niall Murphy ’25. “Our first slate of games [will be] tough, including [fellow top-10 teams] Middlebury and Tufts, and will prove to be good tests for us early on in the season. [We] can’t wait to get going on Hitch[cock Field] again.”

Junior Declan Sung ‘24E echoed his teammate’s sentiments: “While I definitely enjoyed the long summer days, I can say with absolute certainty that I can’t wait for the leaves to change and the season to get going.”

This spirit served them well during their first game of the new season. The Mammoths began their 2022 campaign on the right foot against the College of Mount St. Vincent on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. on Gooding Field. They did so in resounding fashion, scoring twice in the first five minutes of play en route to a 4-1 win over the Dolphins. Murphy scored his first collegiate goal in the third minute before Fynn Hayton-Ruffner ’25 notched the first of his Mammoth career two minutes later. Barkidjija made it 3-0 before an own goal put the game away for good, despite a Dolphins goal cutting the lead to three in the second half.

The team will look to build on this momentum in their first NESCAC game of the season Saturday, Sept. 10, at Hitchcock field. They will take on their 2021 Elite Eight foe Middlebury in what is sure to be a great game. Kickoff against the Panthers is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.