With an impressive, undefeated start to the season, the men’s soccer team had high hopes for a weekend doubleheader against NESCAC foes Williams and Middlebury.
After last Saturday’s tie with nationally-ranked Connecticut College, Amherst is ranked No. 2, just behind the defending national champions, Tufts, in the United Soccer Coaches rankings.
The NESCAC, especially this year, remains a turbulent, exciting conference with parity that makes every match worth watching.
When the Mammoths traveled to Williams on Saturday, it was no exception. Under a blistering sun on Cole Field, Amherst pushed the intensity early to great success.
Amherst pressed high up the pitch, pressuring the Ephs’ defenders to make quick decisions, which sometimes turned into desperate clearances by the opposition.
Brought on at the 15-minute mark, Ignacio Cubeddu ’23 was harrying a Williams defender in possession when he nicked the ball as the Eph tried to clear it away. Cubeddu cut the ball inside, toward the goal and onto his favored right foot.
He launched a curling shot into the far corner and past the goalkeeper, putting the Mammoths up 1-0 with 20 minutes remaining in the first half.
The pressure from Amherst, however, refused to relent. Another high-press by Amherst resulted in a throw-in just 10 minutes later, and Bryce Johnson ’21 stepped up to take one of his infamous flip-throws.
By using his lower body as a catapult counterweight, Johnson can whip the ball from the sideline with tremendous velocity and accuracy.
On this particular throw, from about 35 yards from the end line on the right side of the pitch, Johnson’s throw went all the way to the goalmouth, where an eager Ephs defender attempted to deflect it away with his head, but instead buried the ball in the bottom right corner.
Williams, even after the halftime break, had folded under Amherst pressure and failed to generate more than four shots on target. A strong defensive effort by the Mammoths saw the game end with the team’s fifth clean sheet in seven matches played.
After a quick turnaround, Amherst faced down undefeated Middlebury at home on Hitchcock Field on Sunday.
The Panthers had the upper hand early, but a brilliant slide in desperation by Felix Wu ’21 prevented Middlebury from scoring early.
Half an hour in, the Panthers shot one past keeper Kofi Hope-Grund ’21 in his first start of the season.
The Mammoths, who have come back two times this season already, responded by piling the pressure on Middlebury high up the pitch.
Senior Dane Lind, working as the top spoke of the midfield axis, disrupted Middlebury’s build-up, stole the ball and set NESCAC-leading goalscorer German Giammattei ’22 loose with an excellent through ball.
Giammattei pounced on the opportunity and hammered the ball home between the keeper’s legs to even the scoreline.
Amherst outshot Middlebury 28-4 in the final 65 minutes of the match, including the two 15-minute overtime periods, but the game ended 1-1. The Mammoths return to action Wednesday night, when they take on non-conference foes New England College.