KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With the score knotted at 1-1, Bryce Ciambella '17 scored what proved to be the game-winner in the 55th minute of play to lift the Amherst College men's soccer team to a thrilling, 2-1 victory and its first-ever NCAA Division III Championship crown Saturday evening at the Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Mo.
Amherst capped its national title season with an 18-1-2 overall record that featured a 14-game winning streak to begin the season, and ended with the Purple & White finishing the year undefeated in its last five games (4-0-1). Loras concluded its year 18-5-1 overall.
Ciambella was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Offensive Player, while senior goalkeeper Thomas Bull was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Defensive Player. Nico Pascual-Leone '16, Jackson Lehnhart '17 and Andrew Orozco '17 also earned all-tournament honors for the Purple & White.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- In a back-and-forth first half that saw Amherst hold a 13-9 advantage in shots, and a 6-3 lead in shots on goal, it was Loras who struck first in the 9th minute through Johnny Rummelhart's redirected shot that found its way into the back of the net. Alex Bradley and Kevin Higgins notched the assists on the play.
- Amherst responded with a goal of its own in the 14th minute when Lehnhart delivered a sensational header into the top left corner following a corner kick from Luke Nguyen '19. The scoring strike was Lehnhart's first of the campaign.
- In the 55th minute, the Purple & White took a 2-1 lead when Greg Singer '16 fed the ball to Ciambella who then curled a superb shot from 25-yards out into the far right corner to give Amherst the one-goal lead. The goal was his first of the season.
- The Purple & White was able to fend off a late rush by the DuHawks to clinch the win.
- Amherst held a 10-5 advantage in shots on goal, led by three from Singer, and also held a 7-4 advantage in corner kicks. Loras edged the Purple & White in shots, 22-19.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS
- At the 2:13 mark, Singer got free on the right hand side of the box and attempted a bicycle kick that was well on target and past goalkeeper Jacob Peterson, but a DuHawk defender was able to clear the ball off the line. The ball fell to Christopher Martin '17, but his shot was sent high over the crossbar.
- At the 8:23 mark, Loras drew first blood when Bradley and Higgins linked up just outside the Amherst 18-yard box and Rummelhart tapped a shot that was redirected and found its way into the back of the net to give the DuHawks a 1-0 lead.
- After a DuHawk shot on target by Rummelhart was saved by Bull, Ciambella sent a dangerous ball into the box to Pascual-Leone whose close-range shot was tremendously tipped over the bar by Peterson.
- At the 13:07 mark, Amherst equalized when Nguyen sent a fabulous corner kick into the area and Lehnhart executed a brilliant header into the top left corner to level the match at 1-1.
- The DuHawks again had an opportunity when Richard Lenke drilled a shot from 25-yards out that flew over the crossbar.
- Following a short corner in the 24th minute, Lehnhart dribbled into the area and ripped a shot that caught the Loras defense off guard and was pushed into the side netting.
- A short while later, Singer had a tremendous diving header that again beat the keeper, but the DuHawk defense was able to clear the danger.
- After Loras earned a free kick just on the right hand edge of the box, Bradley volleyed a shot that went just high.
- The Purple & White threatened again in the 32nd minute when a Singer overhead kick fell to Cameron Bean '17 who tried to slot the ball into a seemingly open net with the goalie out of position, but Peterson was able to recover and jump on the ball keeping the game deadlocked at 1-1.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS
- Early in the second half, Loras had the first real good look at a go-ahead score when Lenke broke free in the middle of the field and flicked the ball to Rummelhart who tried to chip the keeper but Bull made a phenomenal leg save to keep the game level at the 52:27 mark.
- Moments later, Lehnhart had a throw in to Singer who left the ball for Ciambella who bent a sensational ball into the far right corner of the net to give Amherst a 2-1 edge in the 55th minute of play.
- The Purple & White threatened again when Singer broke free and had a shot on goal that was parried aside by Peterson. The ball fell to Martin who raced onto it and tried to chip it in over the keeper, but the ball was cleared aside keeping the DuHawks' deficit at just one goal.
- With 25 minutes remaining in regulation, Amherst knocked on the door again when Martin headed a ball in front of the goal mouth, but Peterson was able to collect it.
- After a period of sustained pressure by the Purple & White, Loras's Jonah Jacke tried a shot through traffic but his effort went wide right. The DuHawks then had a threatening corner service by Bradley at the 70:54 mark, but Bull was able to catch the cross.
- With 12 minutes to play in regulation, Bradley received a ball deep in the box and managed to get a shot away but it rose over the bar and out of play.
- Loras continued to apply heavy pressure in Amherst's defensive third, and sent several threatening balls into the box, but the stingy Purple & White defense was equal to the challenge.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
- As an institution, Amherst has now collected 11 national team championships, with the last coming in the spring of 2014 when the Purple & White men's tennis team captured their second national crown (2011).
- Amherst (25-10-10 all-time in NCAA playoff action) capped its sensational 2015 campaign, 18-1-2 overall, tying the highwater mark for wins under ninth-year head coach Justin Serpone. The Purple & White posted the same ledger in 2013.
- Amherst concluded its dominant season with a 45-5 goal differential, a 0.23 goals against average, and trailed only three times during the entire season. The Purple & White shutout four of its five opponents during their NCAA postseason run, knocking off No. 15 Lycoming, No. 2 Trinity (Texas), No. 8 SUNY Oneonta, and No. 11 Loras along the way.
- For the second time in as many seasons, the number one seed in the NESCAC tournament lost its quarterfinal match; garnered an at large bid to the NCAA tournament; advanced to the NCAA Final Four; and then claimed its program's first-ever national championship (Tufts accomplished this feat in 2014).
- Bull ended his sensational tenure between the posts with 16 clean sheets this season, en route to an NCAA Division III men's soccer career record of 50 over his four years.
- Together, the Amherst senior class of Bull, Pascual-Leone, Singer, Milton Rico, Tommy Haskel, and Will Poss amassed an outstanding four-year mark of 67-3-13; claimed two NESCAC titles (2012, 2013); four NCAA Division III Championship appearances; three NCAA Elite Eight berths, and the program's first-ever national crown.
QUOTES FROM HEAD COACH JUSTIN SERPONE
- "The real credit, from a coaching perspective, goes to our assistant coaches Derek Shea, Attila Schmidt and Eric Bracy. Their hard work and care is integral to our entire culture."
- "Hats off to Loras for a terrific final. It's no secret as to why they are one of the premier teams in the country. Coach Rothert and his team have so much to be proud of."
- "It's hard to describe how this feels. I'm just so happy for our team, especially the seniors. I couldn't ask for a better group of people to share this journey with. What a season, the only regrettable part is that it had to end. I wish we were practicing on Monday."