AMHERST, Massachusetts -- Amherst claimed a 2-0 victory over Ithaca College to advance to the Jeffs' first NCAA Final Four, to be played next week on the campus of a participating institution. Amherst entered the match as the New England Region Champion, while Ithaca had claimed its third straight Northeast Region title to reach the quarterfinals.
Matt Diggs (Seattle, WA) poked in a header by Tim Christian (Agawam, MA) in the 29th minute to give Amherst a 1-0 lead before the half with the junior's third goal of the tournament. Rookie Stephen Squillario (Randolph, NJ) blasted in an insurance goal, the first of his collegiate career, early in the second half as Mike Grant (Mendon, MA) sent a cross from the right corner into the box. Amherst remained an offensive threat by earning nine corner kicks in the match, compared to two by the Bombers.
Ithaca created several scoring opportunities, the Bombers' most promising a rocket by Joao Valerio (Minoa, NY) from the top of the 18 to force Amherst keeper Kevin Larner (Short Hills, NJ) to make a sliding save across the goalmouth. Larner finished with seven saves, while Chris Lucci tallied five for Ithaca.
"We played pretty well, though this wet stuff would not be our favorite surface," noted Ithaca Head Coach Andy Byrne about the snow- and rain-soaked field. "Both teams had their chances, but that first goal gave Amherst an advantage, and then they scored early in the second half. It was a pretty big hole to dig ourselves out of, but we created some chances that just didn't work out."
"We decided that we had to play much longer," commented Amherst Head Coach Peter Gooding. "and we had to play the ball over the top and into their half of the field. I admire Ithaca for their willingness to knock the ball around, but from our point of view, we needed to play the ball longer."
The Bombers finish the 1997 season with a 14-5-1 record in their 11th NCAA appearance. The Jeffs improve to 12-4-2, breaking the school record for most wins in a single season by a men's soccer team. The squad is also the first men's team in school history to reach the Final Four, as the Jeffs will face defending national champion The College of New Jersey in the national semifinal game. The Lions defeated Gettysburg 2-0 in the Mid-Atlantic/Metro quarterfinal.
The site of Championship Weekend, November 28-29, will be determined by an NCAA Committee tomorrow morning.
at Hitchock Field, Amherst, Massachusetts Ithaca (14-5-1) 0 0 -- 0 Amherst (12-4-2) 1 1 -- 0Scoring: AC Matt Diggs (Tim Christian) 29:38, AC Stephen Squillario (Mike Grant) 46:49.
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