AMHERST, Mass. – The No. 2 and top-seeded Amherst College men's soccer team earned the program's fifth NESCAC title, and fourth in the last six seasons, after shutting out fourth-seeded Hamilton College, 3-0 in Sunday afternoon's NESCAC Championship title game at Hitchcock Field.
"I'm so proud of our guys. Winning a NESCAC Championship is such a special achievement, " commented Amherst head coach Justin Serpone. "We talked before the game about how much this means to our alumni, fans, families, staff and players. We're going to enjoy this for a couple days before we refocus for the NCAA's. "
With the win, Amherst improves to 16-1-1 on the season and garners the NESCAC automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Division III Championship and will await its opponent. The NCAA Selection Show will take place on Monday, Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. on NCAA.com. The Continentals (10-7-1) will await a possible at-large bit to the national postseason tournament.
In a highly contested first half, Rohan Sood '16 logged one of Amherst's two shots on target. Sending a ball from midfield into a cluster of players in front of the goal, Hamilton netminder Linds Cadwell timed the play perfectly and smothered the ball before it could be deflected into the netting.
Continuing the back-and-forth play, Alec Talsania ripped a low, hard shot on goal with just over 17 minutes to play in the first half. Getting his body in front of the attempt, Lee Owen '18 registered the stop before Jackson Lehnhart '17 cleared the that rebound that was loose in the box.
Hamilton nearly notched the game's first goal at the 35:59 mark after executing a well-strategized play on a free kick. With all but one Continental player lined up on the right side, Killian Clancy snuck a pass to a wide-open Talsania on the left side of the field. Sending a crossing pass, Talsania found the foot of Bobby Chapman who one-timed a shot on goal, but Owen was up to the challenge and made the diving save.
Bryce Ciambella '17 had one of the Purple & White's best chances of the half in the 43rd minute, corralling a loose ball in the middle of the box and splitting two Hamilton defenders, but his shot from eight yards out sailed over the top right of the net.
Concluding the opening half in dramatic fashion, Amherst claimed a 1-0 edge with just two seconds remaining on the clock. Corralling a loose ball in the box following a Ciambella free kick, Luke Nguyen '18 turned and drove an attempt on frame. Diving to his right, Hamilton keeper Linds Cadwell got his fingertips on the ball, but the momentum of the shot carried the ball over the goal line.
Holding momentum into the second half, Amherst needed just 4:29 to double their lead as Nguyen once again found nylon to make it a 2-0 contest. Converting on a high arching corner kick from Ciambella, Nguyen headed the service past the diving Cadwell and into the bottom right corner of the net.
Nearly tallying Amherst's second goal in 10 minutes, senior Forest Sisk rifled an attempt on net at the 54:11 mark, but his volley went just high of the crossbar.
Responding almost immediately, Alex Cadet cut back on a defender in an athletic play and quickly sent a shot towards goal, but Cameron Bean '17 got there just in time to slide tackle the attempt towards the sideline.
The game's final score came in the 64th minute, with junior Weller Hlinomaz recording his eighth goal of the fall. In a terrific individual effort, Hlinomaz won the battle with his defender after a Hamilton goal kick and blasted a shot from 35 yards out into the top right corner of the goal to extend Amherst's lead to 3-0.
Mike Lubelczyk nearly cut the Continentals deficit to two with 16:58 on the clock, powering a free kick on target, but Owen was up to the task and made the stop in traffic to keep the Purple & White's lead at three.
Hamilton's final bid to thwart the shutout came with 32 seconds remaining in the outing, as Talsania headed a crossing pass towards goal, but his attempt sailed wide left of the net as Amherst secured the 3-0 victory.
"Hamilton battled really hard today and had such a terrific season," remarked Serpone. "I applaud Coach Nizzi and their seniors on a great run."
- In goal, Owen (15-1-1) registered six saves for Amherst in the winning effort, while Hamilton's Linds Cadwell (3-2-1) made two saves in the loss.
- Amherst owned a 17-12 edge in shot differential, and a 9-5 advantage in corner kicks.
- The Purple & White were whistled for 14 infractions in the matchup, while the Continentals were called for 12 fouls.
- Ciambella led the outing with four shots, while Christopher Martin '17 and Nguyen each had two shot attempts for the Purple & White.
- Leading the Hamilton offense, Mike Lubelczyk took three shots for the Continentals, while Alec Talsania fired two shots.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
- Amherst has now won five league titles (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016), including four in the last six seasons, and has amassed an overall record of 24-10-3 in NESCAC postseason play.
- The Purple & White will be making their 11th straight, and 16th overall appearance in the NCAA tournament, and have advanced to the Quarterfinals in three of the last four years highlighted by the program's first National Title in 2015.