Juarez, Hastie Second Half Heroics Lift Amherst over No. 1 Middlebury in Senior Day Thriller

Juarez, Hastie Second Half Heroics Lift Amherst over No. 1 Middlebury in Senior Day Thriller

Today's game marked Senior Day for Amherst women's soccer who will graduate nine seniors at the conclusion of the 2019 season. Prior to today's matchup, the Mammoths took a few minutes to recognize the accomplishments of the Class of 2020. As a class, this year's seniors have compiled an overall mark of 49-16-5 with a 22-11-4 record against NESCAC opponents and a 26-6-3 record at home with two seasons unbeaten on Hitchcock Field. During that time, Amherst has outscored opponents 172-55 and recorded 38 shutouts. Amherst has made three consecutive NESCAC Championship appearances, winning the conference title in 2016 and two NCAA Tournament appearances, including the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2016 and 2018.  

AMHERST, Mass. – In a captivating New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) matchup Sunday afternoon, Amherst women's soccer handed No. 1 ranked Middlebury their first loss on the season after second half heroics from Alexa Juarez '22 and Ruby Hastie '22 lifted the Mammoths over the Panthers for the first time since 2016 on senior day at Hitchcock Field.

With the win, Amherst improves to 9-3-1 and notches their fourth conference win while the Panthers suffer their first loss on the 2019 tab (10-1-2, 5-1-2 NESCAC).

"I am so proud of this team. Middlebury is a very strong side, and we were able to put everything together today and get the result," said Amherst head coach Jen Hughes. "I am inspired by the heart, grit, and discipline this group showed today. I attribute a lot of that to our amazing senior class."  

In the opening minutes, Middlebury saw a couple promising chances with Eliza Van Voorhis heading a ball just wide of the post while Gretchen McGrath placed a shot just off target to pressure the Mammoths senior goalkeeper early on.

On the other end, Amherst's offense noted the biggest opportunities of the first half in sequential form. Sloan Askins '20 carried the ball at the top of the box before unloading a shot that struck the crossbar and back into play.

Just a minute later on the ensuing attack, Sarah Sullivan '23 hit a one-time curler to the top right corner of the net. However, Panther goalkeeper Ursula Alwang came up huge for the away side, laying out and punching the ball off the post and away to preserve the 0-0 score line.

In the waning minutes of the first half, Middlebury's Eliza Robinson stood over the ball on the right corner of the box and sent in a bending shot to the top right corner of the frame. With one outstretched arm, Sanders was able to knock the ball up and over the net for one of her three saves on the afternoon.

Heading into halftime, both sides were evenly matched with Amherst holding an 8-7 edge in shots while Middlebury led with a 54-46% mark in possession. Both teams had three corner kicks and two shots on goal.

The game-winning breakthrough fell in the 61st minute after high pressure from the Mammoths led to the Panthers giving up the ball in their defensive zone. Isabel Stern '22 settled the ball along the right side of the box, took a touch, and centered the ball to an open Juarez who's volley at the near post landed in the netting on the far side for her seventh goal on the season. Stern's assist puts her third overall on the team with three on the year.

After subbing on for the Panthers in the 68th minute, Van Voorhis almost brought things back even when Robinson played a ball over the top of the Mammoths defense into the penalty box. Controlling the ball to the right of the frame, Van Voorhis fired a low-driven shot to the back left post but Sanders stifled the chance with a highlight-reel diving save.

The insurance goal came in the 81st minute when Ruby Hastie '22 dribbled through a defender's legs, and went to take a shot but was clipped from behind by a Panther defender. Hastie lined up for the penalty kick and calmly pocketed the ball into the back of the net, solidifying the Mammoths 2-0 triumph on senior day.

Amherst recorded six shots in the second half to finish with 14 on the day and six on goal while Middlebury totaled at nine with three on goal.

In between the pipes, Sanders received her fourth win on the season while Alwang recorded her first loss with four saves.  

Amherst returns to NESCAC action on Saturday, October 26th when they face Bates on the road at 11:00 AM. The Panthers will also compete on October 26th in their next outing when they travel to Tufts for a 12:00 PM bout.

"The senior class has worked so hard to cultivate a team culture that has enabled us to fight through adversity and generate momentum at a critical time of the season," Hughes finished. "We will enjoy today's result but get back to the grind this week in preparation for Bates on Saturday."