Amherst men, women in comfortable surroundings as NCAA soccer tournaments open

For the Gazette
Published: 11/11/2016 6:48:50 PM

The last time the Amherst College men’s soccer team played in an NCAA Tournament game, it was running off in excitement after topping Loras 2-1 to win the Division III national championship.

The team had no trouble maintaining that high level of play in the 2016 season and it enters the NCAA Tournament at 16-1-1 following its first NESCAC championship since 2013.

Amherst is focused entering the postseason.

“I think morale is good right now. We try not to get too high or too low,” Amherst coach Justin Serpone said. “We’re very happy we won NESCACs. That was a goal of ours, but what happened last Sunday doesn’t have anything to do with what will happen this Sunday. I think we’re a mature enough group to understand that.”

Amherst will begin defense of its national championship this Sunday at Hitchcock Field at 1 p.m. AC is one of only two teams in the tournament with a first-round bye. The other is Chicago.

Amherst will play the winner of Daniel Webster (13-5-3) and Worcester State (12-6-0). That game is Saturday at 1 p.m. at Amherst.

Daniel Webster won the NECC championship. Freshman Kevin Herrara is the Eagles’ top goal scorer with nine. He is followed by Michael Ottman with seven.

Worcester State won the MASCAC championship over Fitchburg State. The Lancers’ top offensive threat is Hampshire Regional graduate and sophomore Bryan Brasil, who has 11 goals.

Midfielders Tyler Church, of Florence, and Ian Robson, of Amherst, also play for the Lancers. Church, a senior, has one goal in 13 games. Robson, a sophomore, has appeared in four games.

Serpone said it’s a little difficult to prepare for a game during the week when you don’t know the opponent.

“You’ve got to prepare for both teams,” Serpone said. “We’ll have the luxury of seeing them play without having to play ourselves. It does add a different wrinkle, but you have a week to do it and we’ll see them, so we’ll be alright.”

Amherst enters the tournament confident in its ability to score timely goals. Junior midfielder Sam Malnik believes it will be important to maintain this play going into the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s really important for us to get goals early on, which will just feed into our energy,” Malnik said. “At the same time, we feel like we’re a team that can beat another team down for 70 minutes and we can score in the 80th and 85th minute. I think because of how deep our bench is and with how much heart we play, we can score at any time in a game.”

Defense has been Amherst’s strength throughout the season. The team allowed two goals during its run to the NESCAC championship.

“Goals are hard to come by in November, so you have to keep them out of the goal,” Serpone said. “I think in our five NCAA games last year when we won the championship, I think we only gave up one goal in that stretch. You can’t get beat if you don’t give up a goal.”

Women’s Tournament

Amherst will serve as regional host this weekend when the Division III tournament kicks off.

Amherst (15-2-1) will face Lasell (18-2-1) at 11 a.m. at Hitchcock Field Saturday in first-round action.

Swarthmore (14-3-0) and Misericordia (17-3-0) play at 1:30 p.m. in the other first-round game. The winners play Sunday at 1:30 at Amherst.

Amherst has won 12 straight games and outscored its opponents 34-7 during the run.

Hannah Guzzi leads the team with 15 goals, including six game-winners. Emily Hester (seven goals) and Rubii Tamen (six goals) have also contributed. Tamen has four goals in her last three games.

Goalie Chelsea Cutler has a .067 goals-against average.


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