AMHERST, Mass. – The top-seeded Mammoths rattled off 13 second half shots in a bid to net the equalizer, however the sixth-seeded visitors withstood the late onslaught to upend the Amherst College men's soccer team as Middlebury College clinched the 1-0 win at Hitchcock Field in 2019 NESCAC Championship Semifinal action Saturday.
"Middlebury battled hard and executed their game plan very well," commented Amherst head coach Justin Serpone. "They don't give up a lot of goals so if you go down against them, it's going to be difficult to get the equalizer."
With the loss, Amherst suffers its first setback of the fall and drops to 14-1-2 overall, while Middlebury improves to 8-2-7 on the season and moves on to face the winner of No. 2 Tufts and No. 4 Williams in the NESCAC Finals. The Mammoths will now await an at-large bid the NCAA Championship Tournament, with Amherst's fate revealed on the live selection show on NCAA.com this Monday, Nov. 11 at 1:30 PM.
"You hate to lose but losing is part of sports," continued Serpone. "Losing is a great reminder of what a team can improve on and we have plenty of things we can be better at. The margins are so small in the postseason so one play here or there can define a season."
Making the most of their first shot attempt of the contest, and one of only three Panther shots in the first half, Ben Potter netted his third goal of the fall an unassisted strike at the 15:25 mark to put the visitors out in front early, 1-0. A defensive tackle on Henry Wilhelm at the top of the box led to the scoring play, with the ball deflecting directly to the foot of Potter who one-timed a laser that ricocheted off left post and into the opposite right corner.
The Mammoths' lone shot on frame in the opening half came with 23:50 on the clock, however Cutler Coleman's '20 header from point blank range was smothered by the Middlebury keeper.
Controlling momentum and upping their offensive urgency in the second half, Amherst rattled off 13 shot attempts as they pushed to post their sixth come-for-behind victory or draw this fall, however Middlebury did not allow history to repeat itself after giving up a game-tying goal to the Mammoths in the 80th minute during the sides regular season 1-1 draw on Sept. 29.
Coming dangerously close to potting the equalizer with 23:55 remaining in regulation, the best of senior Dane Lind's seven second half shots came after a long throw in from the right side took the Panther netminder off his feet. Driving a shot on target from point-blank range at the top left of the goalie box, Lind's attempt was met by a clutch defensive stop on the goal line by Wilhelm.
Hitchcock Field also saw the sidelines holding their collective breaths in the 70th and 76th minute, as back-to-back rockets by Lind looking for the top right corner went inches over the bar.
Looking to tally an insurance dagger with 12:20 on the clock, Wilhelm nearly capitalized on a Panther free kick from the left side as he headed a shot on net, however a huge diving stop by sophomore keeper Bernie White kept the Mammoths within striking distance. Gabe Gitler '21 also did his part to keep Amherst in the game late, chasing down Brendan Barry and putting a clean slide tackle on the ball to keep the forward from earning a 1-v-0 with the netminder with time winding down.
Amherst's final chance to get on the board came with 12 seconds before the final buzzer, with Gitler lofting a shot towards frame following a scrum, however his attempt sailed high right as the Panthers came away with the win.
The Mammoths owned edge in shots and corner kicks in the bout, 19-5 and 4-2, respectively, while both sides were whistled for 16 fouls each.
White (12-1-2) registered two save for Amherst in between the pipes in the losing effort, while Ryan Grady (8-2-6) racked up four stops for Middlebury in the win.
"We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves," Serpone concluded. "NCAA selections will be announced on Monday and then it's a whole new season."