Soccer Dynasty? Men’s, Women’s Soccer Capture Back-to-Back NESCAC Titles

The Men’s and Women’s soccer teams won their second NESCAC title in as many seasons this past weekend. The women’s team downed Bowdoin 2-1 and the men beat Tufts 1-0 to clinch NCAA Tournament berths. Both teams will now enter NCAA play this weekend with National Championship aspirations.

Soccer Dynasty? Men’s, Women’s Soccer Capture Back-to-Back NESCAC Titles
Something special is brewing in the college’s soccer program. Photos courtesy of Kris Dufour (top) and Anna Sawin (bottom).

This past weekend both the men’s and women’s soccer teams did something that few schools have pulled off: repeating as NESCAC champions, winning the league’s postseason tournament for the second consecutive year. The women’s team made history, winning back-to-back championships for the first time in program history. And, for the men, this title marks their second time repeating as conference champions, with the only other title streak being their NESCAC three-peat from 2011-2013. Filled with young talent and seasoned leadership, both programs have just gotten started, as they gear up for deep NCAA tournament runs. They seem to be solidifying a soccer dynasty, with both teams ranked in the top 15 nationally and boasting double-digit wins in an incredibly competitive conference. I took a look at their results this season, and spoke with players to find out to what they attribute their success, and what they are excited about going forward.

No. 4 women's soccer came back from a goal down to beat Bowdoin 2-1 to win their second consecutive NESCAC Championship this past weekend. The team holds a 16-1-1 record heading in the NCAA Tournament's first round this weekend. Photo courtesy of Kris Dufour. 

On the women’s side, the Mammoths won the NESCAC regular season title and clinched the top seed in the conference tournament for the third straight year, earning hosting privileges for the semifinal and final rounds this past weekend. Play began at home for them on Saturday, Oct. 28 with the quarterfinal match against No. 8 seed Tufts. Patience Kum ’25 got the scoring started in the 28th minute before Tufts equalized, but goals from Fiona Bernet ’25 and Precious Novidzro ’27 in the game’s final 10 minutes would go unanswered. The women walked away with the 3-1 win, looking ahead to a semifinal clash against Wesleyan the following weekend.

The Cardinals proved to be a tough opponent, just as they were during the regular season. The first half would be scoreless for the Mammoths, and for a moment, it looked like the two teams were headed to extra time. But, in the 82nd minute, Ally Deegan ’24 played hero. Off an incredible first shot attempt from Kum, Deegan corralled the rebound to tap it past the goalie for the lone score of the match, and her second game-winning goal against the Cardinals in as many postseasons. Matching the score from their regular season game, the Mammoths bested Wesleyan 1-0, and looked to recharge before the championship match the next day.

The NESCAC final featured the Mammoths against No. 3 seed Bowdoin, who had upset second-seeded Williams in penalty kicks the prior day. And, the Polar Bears carried that momentum into Sunday, converting a free kick in the 37th minute to take a 1-0 lead. Despite being down in a game for just the second time all season, the deficit did not scare the Mammoths though, who stepped up and battled. They came out of halftime firing on all cylinders, and in the 55th minute they got their goal. Abby Schwartz ’25E corralled a clearance and beat her defender down the line, before cutting in to find Liza Katz ’25E. Showing composed hold-up play, she played a through ball to an overlapping Alyssa Huyhn ’25, who sent a one-touch cross into the box to the head of Schwartz for a perfect tap-in past the skilled Bowdoin goalkeeper. Now back in the game, the Mammoths contested every ball and looked every bit the better team. Ultimately, the game winner was scored by none other than Kum. Off of great midfield play by Bernet to send the ball upfield, Kum found herself in possession and faked out multiple defenders and the goalkeeper before booting it into the open net. The 2-1 lead in the 80th minute was all the Mammoths needed, as their defense stifled all remaining attempts and helped them clinch their second consecutive NESCAC championship. Mika Fisher ’25E made the save of the game in the second half, making a dive to save a point-blank shot to preserve the Mammoth’s lead. For her performance in the tournament, Kum received NESCAC Women’s Soccer Player of the Week honors.

The Mammoths have dominated all season: they finished in first place in the NESCAC, with the most recent national ranking placing them at No. 4. They lead the NESCAC in scoring average with 3.22 goals per game, while only allowing 0.5 on average — also best in the league. Kum leads the entire NESCAC in points (31), goals (14), and game-winning goals (6), while Katz holds the top spot in the assist category with eight on the season. Schwartz comes in at third in goals, assists, and points — a testament to her versatility. For her stifling one-on-one defense and field communication, junior Charlotte Huang ’25 earned the inaugural NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year honors, while Novidzro was named 2023 NESCAC Co-Rookie of the Year. Huang was named to the 2023 All-NESCAC First Team, along with Bernet, Kum, and Schwartz. Sierra Rosado ’25 was also a 2023 All-NESCAC Second Team selection, with the honor recognizing her relentless play in the midfield. With these dominant numbers and numerous accolades, it is no surprise to see the Mammoths holding a 16-1-1 overall record.

Schwartz acknowledged the importance of Sunday’s win, describing the celebratory feeling of knowing that “we will always be the team that won NESCAC back to back for the first time.” The secret getting there? According to the Mammoths’ captain, the team’s “personal relationships growing off the field as the season continues … and that personal chemistry translating onto the field” has driven their success. That collaboration is evident in their statistics — 14 different Mammoths have scored this season, and 22 have recorded a point —  with contributors and leaders all over the field. Schwartz also noted that the team continues to emphasize to each other that wins are not guaranteed; they must stay humble and fight until the final minute every single game. Everybody has a unique role, and the biggest contribution from any single player is to own their role with confidence which will help the team continue their momentum. Huang added that “after winning the regular season three years in a row, and winning the NESCAC championship twice, the big ambition of a national championship feels even more possible and in our reach!”

The women find themselves in the midst of an incredible season: they have already captured the NESCAC title, and head to Babson to take on Maine Maritime Academy on Saturday, Nov. 11, to kick off their NCAA Tournament play in the Round of 64. Looking ahead, beyond this season their future is quite bright. They return the vast majority of their team, and will undoubtedly bring in incredible young talent. With multiple key players retaining additional seasons of eligibility, the Mammoths are poised to make deep NESCAC and NCAA tournament runs in the coming seasons.

No. 13 men's soccer took down Tufts 1-0 in a NESCAC Championship thriller to win their second straight title. They are 13-2-3 heading into the NCAA Tournament this coming weekend. Photo Courtesy of Anna Sawin.

Not to be outdone, the men also clinched their second consecutive NESCAC championship on Sunday — their seventh in their program history. Finishing the regular season as the second seeded team, they hosted their quarterfinal game versus Wesleyan. They came out swinging: in just the eighth minute of play, Niall Murphy ’25 found the back of the net off the assist from Mohammed Nuhu ’27. This would be the only tally of the game for either team, with the Amherst defense stepping up throughout the remainder of the game to squander any Cardinal attempts.

After earning the 1-0 victory, the Mammoths headed up to Middlebury the following weekend, to face No. 3 Connecticut College in the semifinals. A notoriously tough opponent, the Camels had bested the Mammoths in their regular season matchup in a 3-2 thriller. Determined to get their revenge, the Mammoths came out of the locker room hot. In almost record time, a corner kick in just the second minute of play ended with a header from Simon Kalinauskas ’25 which found the back of the net to give them a 1-0 lead. Riding this momentum, Ben Clark-Eden ’25 hit paydirt just over three minutes later after a scramble in the Camels’ box following a long throw-in. After only five minutes had elapsed, the Mammoths were up 2-0. However, the Camels would score in the tenth minute of play to narrow the lead to one, but for the remaining 80 minutes of play the Mammoths shut them out. With the final score standing at 2-1, as Mammoths punched their ticket to the NESCAC championship match against Tufts the following day.

Although the first half of the championship match saw both teams go scoreless, a phenomenal individual effort from Nuhu in the 54th minute in which he dribbled down the left sideline, seemingly taking on the entire Tufts team before putting a beauty of a shot off the far-post and into the net, would result in a score for the Mammoths. Max Landa ’24 registered six saves in the match to keep the Mammoths in the lead, earning him NESCAC Men’s Soccer Player of the Week honors. With incredible defensive and midfield play, the Mammoths shut out the Jumbos for a 1-0 victory to claim the NESCAC championship. The Jumbos outshot the Mammoths 17-10, but Amherst walked away with their second consecutive title and their fourth in just 10 years.

Similar to the women, the men have had a commanding national presence all season long. With wins against ranked out-of-conference opponents such as No. 5 Montclair State University (2-1), the men set themselves up for success this season heading into tournament play. Within the conference, Landa holds the second lowest goals against average (0.714) — a statistic reflective of the strength of the Amherst defense as a collective. The unselfish play of the team is evident, with four players ranked in the top 15 in total assists in the NESCAC: Declan Sung ’24E (5), Ignacio Cubeddu ’25 (5), Nuhu (4), and Ada Okorogheye ’24E (4). Nuhu and Okorogheye are also ranked 9th and 11th in total points, respectively. With these team numbers, it is no surprise to see the men boasting a No. 13 national ranking and garnering multiple NESCAC honors. Okorogheye was named the 2023 NESCAC Player of the Year, and Nuhu the 2023 NESCAC Rookie of the Year. The two were also both selected to the 2023 All-NESCAC First Team, as were Clark-Eden and Cubeddu.

Amherst is a force to be reckoned with time and time again. Winning the national title in 2015, they have also been runner-ups in 2019 and 2021. With these stats, a national championship is in their future. Starting goalkeeper Landa emphasized the trust that the backline has worked to develop all season as key to this elite level of play, something that allows each player to perform their individual jobs while holding the others accountable. And, first-year phenom Nuhu added that the team camaraderie has been incredible. “The team has been open to me and the other first years since day one,” he said. “We all felt like we belonged on this team since the very first day of preseason.” He finds himself in an exciting position, where he believes that the men “will always compete every single year to win the NESCAC and to win the DIII national championship.”

It is safe to say something special is brewing here in Western Massachusetts. Head Coaches Jen Hughes (who, along with Assistants Su DelGuercio and Jeff Huffman, garnered 2023 NESCAC Coaching Staff of the Year honors) and Justin Serpone have shown time and time again that their teams can compete at the highest levels of the sport, as they have transformed Amherst College into a national soccer powerhouse, drawing players from all across the world. In the NESCAC Women’s Soccer Awards, Hughes and her coaching staff earned NESCAC Coaching Staff of the Year for the second consecutive season.

This weekend, both teams make their respective trips to compete in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The women relocate to Babson to take on Maine Maritime Academy, while the men find themselves at Worcester Polytechnic Institute to take on SUNY Polytechnic Institute, looking to continue their dominant seasons. Having already both been crowned NESCAC champions for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, the teams now shift their focus to the ultimate goal: becoming national champions.