The Amherst women’s soccer team knew as they rode into Medford, Massachuestts that they had an uphill battle ahead of them. The Mammoths punched their ticket to the NESCAC semifinals after surviving a 1-0 overtime win against Hamilton, and despite having an impressive season record of 12-3-1 coming into this weekend, Amherst was the lowest seed in the tournament. The three teams ahead of Amherst in seeding — Tufts, Middlebury and Williams — all put up memorable, hard-fought matches during the regular season. Tufts and Williams were Amherst’s rare losses, while the Mammoths overtook Middlebury on Senior Day in a tight 1-0 finish. The Mammoths were set to play tournament host Tufts as their semifinal matchup on Saturday.
Despite the talent the team was stacked up against, Amherst was confident about their chances. They entered the weekend as both the top offense left in the tournament and the NESCAC leaders in shutouts, with 14 total across the 18-game season. The team’s aggressive offensive style of play allowed them to maintain possession for long durations all season, both providing heavy pressure on the opposing goalie and minimizing scoring opportunities for the other team. Even when those opportunities come around, goalie Erica Sanders ’20 leads the NESCAC in save percentage. The Mammoths boast an impressive 2.50 goals per game, but when paired with their stunning 0.33 goals allowed per game, this four-seed was a force to be reckoned with.
Amherst began the weekend with a statement win against the Jumbos, sending them back to their dorms after a dominant 3-0 finish. The Mammoths jumped out to their usual aggressive start after peppering Tufts with seven shots in the first 15 minutes of play, finally breaking through in the 20th minute when Isabel Stern ’23 scored off a through ball from Ruby Hastie ’22. Amherst struck again in the 32nd minute when Jordan Bailey ’22 scored her first goal of the season with a header off a corner kick.
Despite outshooting Tufts 15-5 in the first half, this game was far from certain for Amherst. Tufts came out with an extra spark in the second half. Sanders stopped a breakaway goal from Tufts co-captain Izzy Moore in the 59th minute, one of four shots on goal. After breaking up a corner kick, Amherst quickly regained possession. Not long after came the Mammoths’ third and final goal of the afternoon, this time with Sloan Askins ’20 receiving a through-ball from Natalie Landau ’21 and winning her one-on-one to find the back of the net. Tufts had several more scoring opportunities, all stifled by the Mammoths.
The Mammoths took the same field in Medford the next day for the NESCAC Finals, this time taking on Middlebury College. The Panthers earned their spot in the final after taking down Williams 2-0 on Saturday. The first half was tense and thrilling but ultimately uneventful. The Mammoths didn’t jump out to their usual offensive barrage, only outshooting Middlebury 6-2. The half was particularly marred by penalties. Amherst and Middlebury had five and six respectively.
In the final 45 minutes of the game, the Mammoths woke up, taking five shots on goal and a pair of corner kick attempts. The lone goal of the afternoon came amid this onslaught of shots when a breakdown by Middlebury allowed Sarah Sullivan ’23 to score her second career goal.
Amherst would see a few more scoring opportunities but spent the remaining 20 minutes of play running the clock out. Sullivan’s goal would prove to be the championship-clincher, as the Mammoths walked away with the NESCAC title. This is the fifth NESCAC championship for Amherst women’s soccer, their second in four years.
Amherst’s tournament victory clinches them a berth in the Division III NCAA tournament, the first two rounds of which take place Nov. 16 and 17. The Mammoths will host Maine Maritime Academy for that tournament. Dickinson College and Farmingdale State will play the second match at Amherst, taking on the winner of the previous day’s game.