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Noa Iimura boots Amherst boys soccer past Northampton

  • Noa Limura of Amherst Regional, left, begins a pass as Jay Wright of Northampton attempts a block Thursday in Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Noa Limura of Amherst Regional, left, begins a pass as Jay Wright of Northampton attempts a block Thursday in Amherst.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Louie Jacob of Northampton, center, goes to the ball against Amherst Regional Thursday in Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Louie Jacob of Northampton, center, goes to the ball against Amherst Regional Thursday in Amherst.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jesse Welborn of Amherst Regional, left, moves the ball against Jordan Maurer of Northampton Thursday in Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Jesse Welborn of Amherst Regional, left, moves the ball against Jordan Maurer of Northampton Thursday in Amherst.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Brandon Vazquez of Amherst Regional, right, moves the ball against Zach Goodwin-Boyd Thursday in Amherst.JERREY ROBERTS

    Brandon Vazquez of Amherst Regional, right, moves the ball against Zach Goodwin-Boyd Thursday in Amherst.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Adrian Haughton of Amherst Regional, center, moves the ball against Zach Goodwin-Boyd of Northampton Thursday in Amherst. Sam Delisle is in the background.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Adrian Haughton of Amherst Regional, center, moves the ball against Zach Goodwin-Boyd of Northampton Thursday in Amherst. Sam Delisle is in the background.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alex LaRaja of Amherst Regional, center, heads the ball beside Jordan Maurer of Northampton Thursday in Amherst. Sam Delisle looks on, right.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Alex LaRaja of Amherst Regional, center, heads the ball beside Jordan Maurer of Northampton Thursday in Amherst. Sam Delisle looks on, right.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Noa Limura of Amherst Regional, left, begins a pass as Jay Wright of Northampton attempts a block Thursday in Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Louie Jacob of Northampton, center, goes to the ball against Amherst Regional Thursday in Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Jesse Welborn of Amherst Regional, left, moves the ball against Jordan Maurer of Northampton Thursday in Amherst.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Brandon Vazquez of Amherst Regional, right, moves the ball against Zach Goodwin-Boyd Thursday in Amherst.JERREY ROBERTS
  • Adrian Haughton of Amherst Regional, center, moves the ball against Zach Goodwin-Boyd of Northampton Thursday in Amherst. Sam Delisle is in the background.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Alex LaRaja of Amherst Regional, center, heads the ball beside Jordan Maurer of Northampton Thursday in Amherst. Sam Delisle looks on, right.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

AMHERST — After playing to a draw for a total of 156 minutes, 6 seconds this week, it took a jaw-dropping goal for a team to finally earn a win in the Battle of the Bridge rivalry Thursday.

Noa Iimura’s no-look blast from 12 yards out gave the Amherst Regional boys soccer team a 2-1 win over Northampton.

“There was a lot of pressure that we tied the last game,” Iimura said. “We really wanted to win this time, so I’m glad it worked out.”

The teams played to a 2-2 draw Tuesday in Northampton.

“We made some certain tactical changes before we played them again and also changed the lineup a bit to counter what they did on Tuesday,” said Amherst coach Michael Rudd, whose team improved to 5-1-2 with the victory. “They are a well-coached team, so I knew we had to be prepared for (Thursday). This game was a bit different. We took nothing for granted. We tried to win every tackle, tried to win every ball, tried to play tactically like we’ve done in most games this year. Attacking soccer, that’s what we’ve been trying to do.”

Iimura’s game winner came on a restart from 50 yards out. Erik Schleeweis sent a high ball from the left sideline toward Iiumara on the near post. Iiumara kept the Blue Devil defender on his back and, in one motion, pivoted while striking the ball in mid air. Iimura’s shot smacked the back of the net just inside the near post with 3:54 left in the contest.

“It was just one of those miracles,” Iimura said. “Erik gave me the perfect ball and I timed it. I wasn’t even looking at the goal when I scored. I was just looking at the ball coming, trying to time it and it happened to all work out.”

Northampton (2-5-3) has gone 0-4-1 in its last five games, but felt plenty of optimism coming off this week’s performances against one of the top programs in western Mass.

“If we can tie them in one game and almost tie them in another game, I think we can play with anyone in western Mass.,” Blue Devils senior Elliot Weiss said. “We are really looking forward to the second half of the season.”

The Blue Devils got on the board first Thursday when Weiss drew a foul in the box in the 11th minute and converted the ensuing penalty kick.

On PKs, “I just try to stay relaxed and not worry about anything,” said Weiss, who scored the game-tying goal in Tuesday’s draw. “I practice it a lot. I do the same thing every time unless the goalie makes a different move. I just stay relaxed and do what I do in practice.”

Amherst responded well and got the equalizer with 4:01 left in the first half on a restart from the right side deep in Northampton’s defensive zone.

Brandon Vazquez took what amounted to a shortened corner chance and found Ian Robson streaking toward the net with a low, hard pass. Robson redirected the ball inside the left post, just past the diving save attempt from Hamp goalkeeper Jack Haller.

The Blue Devils “played us very, very tough,” Rudd said. “I think despite their record, that they were the best team we’ve faced as far as defensively. They were very structured and patient. They didn’t dive in. It took a lot of discipline on our part to eventually break through.”

Haller was impressive throughout the contest and finished with eight saves.

“Jack’s really elevated his game this year,” Soucy said. “His decision making has been superb. He’s not tentative. He’s been a rock. I think by the end of the year, a lot of coaches are going to say that he’s one of the best keepers in the league and in western Mass. He certainly has played that way.”

In the second half, Amherst had numerous quality chances that Haller turned away before Iimura’s unstoppable winner.

“We had a ton of chances,” Vazquez said. “I had a ton myself and couldn’t finish, but I knew someone would get it and Noa got it done.”

Haller had seven saves Tuesday.

“I would have liked to have created more chances, but Northampton is a very disciplined and organized team,” Rudd said. “On the chances we had, (Haller’s) position play was strong. The same keeper really saved the game for them on Tuesday with three terrific saves.”

Curtis Barnes made one save for the Hurricanes.

The victory pushed Amherst’s unbeaten streak to seven since a 1-0 defeat to Cathedral in its opener at home on Sept. 5. The Hurricanes have since outscored their opponents 26-8.

“Early in the season, it was tough because we just started to play together, but now it’s working really well,” Vazquez said. “We are playing like a team, a real strong team. I think we are going to go far this season.”

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