AMHERST, Mass. – Senior Fikayo Ajayi recorded two goals and assisted on two others in a sensational all around performance and the Mammoths doubled the Monks' season goals against total in only 90 minutes, as the No. 18 Amherst College men's soccer battled past No. 8 Saint Joseph's College, 4-2 to hand the visitors their first loss of the year in Sunday's NCAA Championship second round bout at Hitchcock Field.
"What St. Joe's and Coach Dubois has accomplished is absurd," noted head coach Justin Serpone. "That's the only word I can think of. I'm sure they were disappointed with the result today but they should be incredibly proud. I know they will be back."
With the victory, Amherst improves to 14-4-1 on the season, while Saint Joseph's closes out 2018 with a 21-1-0 overall ledger. Advancing to the Third Round of the NCAA Championship for the ninth consecutive season, the Mammoths are set to play No. 2 Tufts in a sectional clash next weekend.
"We'll start think about Tufts in a couple days but we know how good they are," continued Serpone. "I'm not sure we've played a postseason game against them in either NESCAC or NCAA's in the last twelve years so it should be an awesome atmosphere next weekend."
Just the third goal let up by the Monks all season, Ajayi needed only 6:24 to put the home team ahead as he buried an assist from German Giammattei '22. Controlling the ball down the left sideline, Giammattei slid a pass across the box to Ajayi on the far post who one-timed a shot off a defender and over the goal line.
Holding momentum, the Mammoths doubled their advantage six minutes later, with Ajayi connecting with Sebastian Derby '21 on a corner kick from the right side. Sending the insertion pass into the middle of the box, Ajayi found Derby who redirected the ball just enough to get it past the Monks' keeper.
Registering his fifth point of the day, Ajayi potted his second goal of the first half and fifth of the fall at the 24:44 mark to push the score to 3-0. In the right place at the right time, Ajayi capitalized on a rebound following a diving stop by Blake Mullen, ripped a shot from point-blank range into an open net.
Getting the Monks on the board before the break, Kuma Onyejose cut the visitors deficit to 3-1 with 4:33 to play before intermission. Assisting on the highlight real score, Dalton Gaumer gathered a short goal kick and powered a pass 50 yards downfield to Onyejose behind the defense who sent a perfectly placed shot into the bottom right corner.
Opening the second stanza in similar fashion to the first, Jackson Taylor brought the Monks within one at the 50:34 mark as he bent a direct kick from the top left of the box around the wall of Amherst defenders and inside the far right post.
Threatening once again with 37:20 on the clock, Noah Elmore nearly deadlocked the contest as he drilled a shot towards frame from 30 yards out, however the attempt sailed a foot high of target.
Regaining a two-goal cushion with 24:18 remaining in regulation, Felix Wu '21 tallied his first goal of the fall with an assist from Ajayi. Drawing a free kick near the left sideline, Ajayi sent a pass to Wu in the box who volleyed a shot into the near side netting.
"Not only did Fikayo have two goals and two assists today but he also played the last fifteen minutes at center back and help us close out the win," said Serpone. "He does so much for our team – I can't say enough about his contributions on and off the field."
The Monks best chance to get back into striking distance with time winding down came in the 79th minute, as Brett Mattos put a shot on frame after a long throw in, however Bernie White '22 came through with an athletic one handed diving stop to help Amherst clinch the 4-2 victory.
In between the pipes, White (12-2-1) recorded five saves in the winning effort for Amherst, while Mullen (17-1-0) made seven stops for the Monks in the loss.
The Mammoths owned the edge in shots on target, 11-7, while both sides drew two corner kick opportunities in the matchup.
"Our only objective today was to get the opportunity to practice and be together on Tuesday," finished Serpone. "I have so much love and respect for this group. I'm grateful we'll have at least another week together."
|In Oct. 2018, Amherst proudly recognized Ted W. Beneski '78, P'08 and Laurie M. Beneski P'08 for their extraordinary generosity and commitment to the College by naming the men's & women's soccer program in their honor. The College's naming of the Beneski Soccer Program celebrates the Beneskis' love for Amherst athletics and their longstanding investment in helping Amherst students excel as learners, as players and teammates, and as citizens.|