Men’s soccer: Amherst downs Salem State, 2-1, in NCAA Division III first round; hosts Springfield Sunday

For the Gazette
Published: 11/12/2017 12:08:57 AM

AMHERST — The Amherst College men’s soccer team came away victorious in its NCAA Division III Tournament first-round matchup with Salem State, defeating the Vikings, 2-1, Saturday at Hitchcock Field.

The game was tied in the 87th minute, looking destined to go to overtime. But the Mammoths drew a corner kick and midfielder Fikayo Ajayi took the corner from the left side and curved the ball past the scrum in front.

The curve came in so harsh that Salem State goalkeeper Chris Jimenez didn’t get a good jump on it. The ball found its way into the left corner of the net, sending Amherst into the second round of the tournament.

“I couldn’t quite tell what happened,” Amherst coach Justin Serpone said. “We put some pretty good pressure on. We were confident we would get one and we did.”

Ajayi got the Mammoths on the board first. Amherst drew a foul inside the box in the 23th minute, giving the Mammoths a penalty kick.

Amherst elected to have Ajayi take the kick and he buried it in the bottom-left corner of the goal to give the Mammoths a 1-0 lead.

The game flipped on its head in the 53rd minute. Salem State midfielder Alex Carvajal picked up a red card after hitting the head of an Amherst player, forcing the Vikings to play the remainder of the game a man down.

Salem State used the call as fuel. Its offense began putting heat on the Mammoth defense, leading to a goal by midfielder Grace Dos Santos that tied the game in the 65th minute.

“This is an NCAA tournament game,” Serpone said. “People’s emotions are going to press. They were trying get a goal and do whatever they could. That number 10 (Mayele Malango) for them is just special. He did a great job creating an opportunity getting in on us. ... You expect that. Whether it’s 10 guys or whatever they’re going to press. I thought they did a good job getting the goal back.”

After the goal, Amherst began upping its pressure. Playing with an extra man, it double teamed Vikings players and forced multiple turnovers. It led to multiple chances as the Mammoths had 13 second-half shots. Amherst outshot Salem 23-8 for the game.

Amherst had 12 corners, including seven in the second half, to Salem’s one.

The 16th-ranked Mammoths (12-3-2) will host No. 25 Springfield (15-1-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday in the second round.

“Survive and advance,” Serpone said. “Whether you win 2-1 or you win 5-0, you’re playing tomorrow. That’s what the goal of the program is.”


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