Women’s Soccer Wins Championship on Home Turf
The women’s soccer team won their second NESCAC tournament title in three seasons this past weekend, taking down No. 22 Tufts and Little Three rival Wesleyan on the way to the title.
The women’s soccer team secured its third NESCAC Championship in six years with a 1-0 overtime win over Tufts in the semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 5, and a commanding 2-0 win over Wesleyan in the finals on Sunday, Nov. 6. The Mammoths will advance to the NCAA Division III National Championship tournament riding a string of 10-straight victories.
Saturday was a 77-degree November scorcher, and a larger-than-normal crowd of 328, thanks to Family Weekend, packed the hill above Hitchcock Field.
The Jumbos had the first chances of the game, winning a corner around the 7:30 mark and putting a header on goal late in the eighth minute; goalkeeper Mika Fisher ’24 was there to make the stop, though.
However, the Jumbos’ early pressure subsided around the 15-minute mark, giving way to a Mammoth offensive. Amherst’s players increasingly found the ball at their feet in the box, but the Jumbos were able to close down the spaces, blocking or forcing wide every shot.
The Mammoths looked better on the ball and more capable of combining to evade the Jumbos defense for much of the game, but Amherst was content to sit back and break forward when the chances came. The Mammoths nearly opened the scoring in the last 10 minutes of the half, when Abby Schwartz ’24 was able to direct a header on target, but the Jumbos keeper was there to make the save. In the 44th minute, Schwartz got free on the left side of the box and curled the ball towards the top corner. The Tufts keeper furiously back-peddled; the ball seemed destined for the net. But it sailed high, and amid groans from the student (and parent) section the half wound down. 0-0.
Tufts’ best chance of the game came early in the second half. With just four minutes gone, a Jumbo forward found herself through on the right side of the goal. She likely would have scored had Charlotte Huang ’25 not made a 30-yard dead sprint to close off the attacker’s angle and force a weak shot that Fisher had no problem hoovering up. And though eight minutes later, the Jumbos put the ball in the back of the net directly off a corner kick, the goal was waved off, as Fisher was fouled by a sea of attackers, rendering her unable to make the save. So the teams soldiered on in search of the opener.
Around the 60th minute the Mammoths began to turn the proverbial screw. A pattern emerged: A strong back-line, anchored by Huang and Fiona Bernet ’25, made clearance after clearance and absorbed a good deal of pressure, before moving the ball forward. In the middle of the pitch, defensive midfielder Sierra Rosado ’25 seemed to effortlessly wriggle through the opposition, constantly dropping her shoulder and turning with the ball to leave her defenders behind. Up ahead, (Managing Sports Editor) Liza Katz ’24 made run after run down the left flank while Patience Kum ’25 stretched the defense down the middle and Isabel Stern ’23 dribbled past defenders and delivered balls into the box from the right.
The Mammoths’ best chance of finding a win in regulation time came shortly thereafter. In the 68th minute, Stern outran her defender with the ball left of the goal and then cut it across the face of goal for Schwartz, whose left-footed finish clanked off the post. But despite increasing dominance throughout the half, a Mammoth goal always seemed inevitable but never materialized. The score remained deadlocked at 0-0 at the 90-minute mark, forcing a nervy overtime period.
The first of two 10-minute overtime periods was when the Mammoths seized control for good. Amherst’s trademark high-pressure defense forced the Jumbos into mistake after mistake, and a flurry of chances materialized. Again, a breakthrough seemed inevitable.
And this time, it came, with just three minutes remaining in the first half of the overtime period. Ally Deegan ’24 chased a ball through the Jumbos box and was clattered to the ground right on the edge by a Tufts defender. Despite protestations from the away fans, the referee blew her whistle and pointed to the penalty spot.
With a spot in the NESCAC championship on the line, the Mammoths chose the experienced Alexa Juarez ’23E to take the penalty. She stepped up and roped a ball toward the bottom left corner. The Tufts keeper dove the right way, blocking the shot. She was unable to corral the ball, though, and it trickled straight back to Juarez, who hadn’t given up on the play and tapped the ball into the bottom-right corner. The crowd erupted.
Solid defense from the Mammoths prevented the Jumbos from registering a single shot during overtime, and secured the 1-0 win and a place in the championship game against Wesleyan.
The Cardinals proved an easier opponent. Playing less than 24 hours after their overtime victory, the Mammoths found a way to begin the contest on the front foot. They won an early corner — one of only three total in the game — and fired off the first two shots of the game.
But the Cardinals had their chances: In the 37th minute, a Wesleyan attacker found a clear header, but Fisher was there to make the save — one of just two times she was called upon all game.
The Mammoths closed the first half with a period of strong offense. Katz got off two shots, one of which forced a save, and then Kum almost scored with five minutes left but was stifled by a Cardinals defender on the doorstep. For the second straight day, the Mammoths outplayed their opponents but entered halftime at 0-0.
The second half of the match was the Mammoths’ most dominant of the weekend. Bernet and Huang seemed to always be a step ahead, plugging the gaps and stifling every Wesleyan attack. The Cardinals took just three shots all half, and only one on goal, which gave Fisher no problems. The center-back pairing proved capable with their feet, too, constantly moving the ball forward, where the Mammoths looked to work down the wings and send crosses into the box.
That strategy bore fruit in the 56th minute. After releasing down the right sideline from her outside back position, Sophia Haynes ’26 played the ball into the box from the left wing. Deegan met it and sent a measured left-footed volley into the right side netting, leaving the Wesleyan keeper flat-footed. 1-0 Mammoths.
And only three minutes later, the Mammoths bagged a second. After Schwartz found her making a run in behind the defense, Katz played a ball in from the right flank. Schwartz used her height to meet the ball, heading it into the ground near the feet of the goalkeeper, who was unable to read it and could do little but watch the Mammoths’ second goal sail over her head.
From that point on, the Cardinals failed to register a single shot. The Mammoths continued to play some of their best soccer all year, nearly getting a third during a breathtaking tiki-taka move down the length of the pitch in the 63rd minute. Though empty-handed on that occasion, they coasted to the 2-0 win and a coveted NESCAC Championship. But that wasn’t the only honors the team took home: For their performances this weekend, Deegan and Fisher were named Co-NESCAC Players of the Week.
The win completed the squad’s comeback from a disappointing beginning of the season that included losses to rivals Tufts and Williams in the first few weeks. The Mammoths haven’t lost since the beginning of October, winning 10 straight to close their season and conceding just three goals over that span.
With conference honors secured, a larger prize looms: the NCAA Division III National Championship. One year removed from a disappointing round-of-32 loss, the Mammoths are prepared for a deep run this time around. They have the strong defense, clutch scoring, and self-belief necessary to win a national championship and have been battle-tested in one of the nation’s strongest conferences.
Their pursuit begins on Saturday, Nov. 12, against Westminster College (Pennsylvania) at host site Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). If they win on Saturday, they will face either RIT or Johnson & Wales University on Sunday, Nov. 13, at 3 p.m. Kickoff for the Mammoths’ first round game is set for 1 p.m.