Even though it still felt like summer in the Pioneer Valley on Saturday, this weekend marked the official start of fall sports at Amherst. While these opening games cannot write the script for the next two months of play, it’s important for teams to start off on the right foot. Faltering early can snowball into larger mistakes down the road, whereas carrying momentum out of preseason can be the deciding factor when it comes to playoffs in November.
All things considered, it’s nearly impossible to start off better than the women’s soccer team, which went a perfect 3-0 without letting up a single goal along the way. To put the team’s dominant weekend into perspective, the Mammoths outscored opponents a combined 8-0 while outshooting them 60-27. Amherst actually managed to put more shots on net (28) than their three opponents shot combined.
The weekend began with the season opener down the road at Mount Holyoke, where the Mammoths came through with an impressive 6-0 victory. The scoring came early and often, with three goals finding the back of the net within the first 30 minutes of play. Alexa Juarez ’22 scored the first goal of her eventual hat trick in the 14th minute when the forward caught up to a feed from Sophia Fikke ’22 and slipped one past the Lyons’ goalie.
Just five minutes later, the tandem connected again to notch Juarez her second goal of the game. After Isabel Stern ’23 found Kata Heffron ’21 amidst the scrum on a short corner, the Mammoths completed their first half of the season up 3-0.
But Amherst did not become complacent. Juarez capped off her hat trick on her own terms, weaving through Mount Holyoke defenders and burying a shot to match her own single-game career high and put Amherst up 4-0. Stern and Izzy Geneve ’23 would add a goal apiece to the scoring barrage before the game came to a close.
The Mammoths’ first NESCAC opponent of the season brought about the most exciting win of the weekend as Amherst walked away with a 1-0 victory over Bowdoin. Despite the low score, this game was all about Amherst from early on. The Mammoths came out with lightning-quick pace, firing off five shots in the first 20 minutes of play. The ball stayed in Amherst’s offensive zone for what felt like the entire first half.
Opportunity after opportunity came and went until there were 13 seconds left in the first half. Sasha Savitsky ’20 cleaned up a loose ball in front of the net and placed it in the bottom-right corner, the only score of the afternoon. Despite the surfeit of goals, Amherst played better in the second half, outshooting Bowdoin 11-5 during that stretch.
The weekend concluded with another Five College opponent and another victory, with Amherst downing Smith 1-0. Just like they did against Bowdoin, Amherst’s offense came out on the attack, loading up six shots and three corner kicks within the first 20 minutes of play. Hannah Gustafson ’21 came out especially aggressive with three shots to herself and a beautifully-placed low riding cross to Juarez before being broken up by a Smith defender.
The offense finally broke through when Natalie Landau ’21 recorded her first goal of the season off of a feed from Juarez, notching what would eventually be the deciding goal. The Mammoths outpaced Smith in the first half with a 15-4 shot breakdown and an 8-1 differential in corner kicks.
While the fast-paced offense took center stage this weekend, the Mammoths’ defensive efforts cannot be understated. The Amherst goalies have not been contested much (Antonia Tammaro ’21 leads the team with eight saves), but that lack of offense is less an indictment on opposing offenses and more a badge of pride for this Mammoth defense. The team’s ability to recover from an offensive attack and snuff out the opposition in transition has led to a relatively calm weekend for the Amherst keepers.
The Mammoths will get a nice five days of rest before heading up to Hamilton, New York, on Saturday at 1 p.m.