Ephs fall 1-0 to rival Jeffs in double OT heartbreaker

Chris Conder ‘15 had a standout defensive performance in the men’s 1-0 double overtime loss to Amherst on Satuday. -Photo Courtesy of Sports Information
Chris Conder ‘15 had a standout defensive performance in the men’s 1-0 double overtime loss to Amherst on Satuday. -Photo Courtesy of Sports Information

In a rematch of last years’ Div. III NCAA Sweet 16 match up, men’s soccer (3-2, 1-2 in the NESCAC) battled Amherst at home last Saturday. Just like the Sweet 16 matchup, 90 minutes were not enough to separate the two teams, but this time, the Ephs did not emerge on top, falling 1-0 in double overtime to the Jeffs.

Williams started the game off well, dominating possession and creating a few chances in the first 10 minutes, as the men looked to make an early statement. Amherst, however, made a formation change, switching to an offensive minded 4-3-3 that helped them settle down and create some chances. In the 43rd minute, Amherst created a chance from a free kick, but goalkeeper and co-captain Peter Morrell ’14 easily parried it. Morrell was strong in goal, making 10 saves in the game.

Despite a few chances for both teams, the defenses were resolute and the game entered halftime tied 0-0. The Ephs and the Jeffs began the second half eager to make an impression, as play got a bit chippy. The Ephs, though, looked more likely to score. Winger Zack Grady ’15 found a bit of space on the top of the box and ripped a low shot that beat the Amherst goalkeeper, but only rippled the side netting, leaving the score at 0-0.

Around the 70th minute, Williams created another good scoring opportunity, as a long throw in from Malcolm Moutenot ’17 fell to the feet of midfielder Nathan Miller ’15, but his ensuing shot was deflected. The rebound fell to Chris Seitz ’15, whose shot skirted just wide of the post. As the game wound down, both teams searched desperately for a breakthrough.

Williams almost created such an opportunity in the 87th minute when Matt Muralles ’15 picked up the ball around midfield and drove right at the heart of the Amherst defense. Amherst defender Ben Norton took him down about 20 yards from goal with a hard foul resulting in a free kick. Unfortunately, Muralles blasted the kick well over the bar as regular time came to a close.

The Ephs’ defensive line, consisting of Andres Burbank-Crump ’15, Chris Conder ’15, Josh Miller-Lewis ’14, Luke Pierce ’15 and co-captain Dan Lima ’14, all had strong performances in regulation play, keeping the Jeffs attack at bay, repeatedly.

In the first overtime, the Ephs had the first chance, as Seitz streaked down right side and was taken down hard inside the box; however, the refs’ whistles remained silent. Amherst had a golden opportunity to win the game a few minutes later, as a cross found Amherst’s Nico Pascual-Leone alone at the back post. Morrell made the save of the season to stop Pascual-Leone’s shot, sticking out his left leg to knock away the low header as his body was moving the other way.

In the second overtime, Moutenot created a promising play, exchanging passes with Miller before playing in a lovely cross that was taken out of the air by the Jeffs’ goalkeeper.

Unfortunately, in the 106th minute, Amherst finally broke through the solid Williams defense with some good flank play and a cross that found Max Fikke, who was unmarked six yards from goal, ending the second overtime period and giving the Jeffs a 1-0 win.

“For 90 minutes it was a very even game,” Head Coach Mike Russo said. “We were very competitive with Amherst. Neither team really created a lot of goal scoring opportunities. Then in overtime, for whatever reason, we seemed to lose our focus and they had one header on the back post that Peter Morrell ’14, who’s played very well for us all season, made a very good save on. Then in the second overtime, [one of their players] got into the corner, turned our defender and played a ball across into the penalty box. We didn’t have enough bodies there, and their player just slotted it in. It was disappointing to say the least, but I can’t fault our intensity and the commitment our players showed.”

Williams will look to rebound from the loss when it plays Conn. College on Saturday at 2 p.m. on Cole Field.