AMHERST, Mass. – The Amherst College men's soccer program returns to the field in 2018 with high aspirations, as this year's 26-man squad aims to build upon the team's recent successes on the conference and national level.
"I believe in and am excited to work with this group," said head coach Justin Serpone who enters his 12th season at the helm of the Mammoths. "I am really proud of what we accomplished last year with new faces in different spots and the confidence and experience that was gained by players across the board has provided a good foundation for the season ahead of us."
However even with the return of 19 veterans to the field, including a core group of starters that features three of last season's top-four point scorers, the Mammoths know that nothing is guaranteed.
"We are starting the year at square one and will need to re-climb the mountain," said Serpone. "Everyone starts the season in the same spot and if we don't do what needs to be done to prepare for each individual game, we could easily start the year 0-4 in conference play - it's an important month for us."
"Our first-year class showed up to preseason ready to play and they all will be vying for playing time," commented Serpone. "German is as skilled a forward as there is and I'm excited to see what he and the rest of the class does against a very tough schedule."
The Mammoths top point-getter last fall with 12 points behind five scores and two assists, Sebastian Derby '21 is primed to be a noteworthy threat up front after an impressive rookie season.
Netting four of Amherst's 38 scores last year, defenses will also need to be on the lookout for a breakout season by Jimmy McMillian '20, while Matteo Mangiardi '21 and Jack O'Brien '21 add tenacity and depth to a dangerous attack that posted a 10.1 shot percentage in 2017.
IN THE MIDFIELD
A battle tested group of returners is set to patrol the midfield, including the proven one-two punch of Luke Nguyen '19 and Fikayo Ajayi '19. Leading the Mammoths in goals with five last fall, Ajayi tallied 11 points as a potent two-way player, while Nguyen solidified himself as a clutch component of the midfield in 12 starts en route to garnering Second Team All-Region honors.
"In my opinion, Luke is the best center midfielder in the conference," commented Serpone. "His consistency for us game in and game out has made him the foundation on which our entire offense and defense is based. I am also excited to see what Fikayo is going to bring to the table this season. He is a dynamic, multifaceted player who has been tuned in since day one of preseason."
One of only two players to see action in all 19 contests in 2017, Andres Pascual-Leone '19 is expected to once again be a mainstay in the middle of the field, while Dane Lind '20 rounds out the returning core.
IN THE BACKFIELD
The sophomore trio of Bryce Johnson, Kyle Kelly and Felix Wu headline the defensive unit alongside junior Cutler Coleman, with the group combining for an impressive 21 total points a year ago.
Also vying for time will be Sean Fitzgerald '19, Will Cohen '19, Christopher Lewis '19 and Dylan Steele '21 as all four saw action last season to contribute to the Mammoths 0.95 goals against average.
On the goal line, returning goalkeepers Kofi Hope-Gund '21, Michael Stone '21 and Will Dunne '20 anchor the defense. Both Hope-Gund and Stone registered over 700 minutes in between the pipes last fall to help rack up six clean sheets for the Mammoths.
Amherst kicks off the 2018 season on Wednesday, September 5 when they begin a three-game road trip with a 7 p.m. non-conference clash at Wentworth.