AMHERST, Massachusetts -- Both the Amherst men's and women's soccer teams concluded the 1997 campaign with top-ten national finishes after extraordinary NCAA Tournament runs. This is the second straight year that the women have claimed a top-national finish, while the men make their highest showing ever.
Men's Soccer Recap
As the first men's team in Amherst history to reach the NCAA Final Four, men's soccer posted its finest season ever with a 12-5-2 finish in the company of the best teams in the nation. The Jeffs roared out to a 7-0-1 start with a 19-8 goal advantage on three shutouts. They rose as high as No. 4 in the nation in their third-straight week as the top team in New England. Despite a mid-season slump where Amherst dropped four of its next five matches, the Jeffs rebounded in their regular season finale against Williams. The archrivals battled for not only a piece of the coveted Little III title, but also a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, Amherst's Brian Angelini (Granada Hills, CA) banged in the game-winner 10:20 into sudden death to propel the Jeffs to their first victory over the Ephs in 18 attempts, their first piece of the Little III crown since 1990, and their third NCAA appearance in five years.
Seeded fourth in the New England region, Amherst overcame NESCAC rival Middlebury in penalty kicks after four overtimes to advance to the Regional Championship at Bowdoin. The Jeffs knocked off the top-ranked host to register its first NCAA victory, as advancement on penalty kicks is officially scored as a tie. They added NCAA win #2 by upending Plymouth State 3-2 in the championship game as Amherst advanced out of its region for the first time in three tries. The Jeffs handily blanked Ithaca in the national quarterfinals for the program's first invitation to the NCAA Final Four with a date with defending national champ The College of New Jersey. While Amherst led 1-0 through most of the second half, a pair of goals within the final seven minutes of regulation ended the Jeffs' Cinderella season.
Their 12-5-2 mark sets a school record for most wins in a single season, formerly at 11 set in 1989, the last season Head Coach Peter Gooding directed the team before his return in 1997. Igniting the offense were a pair of fast forwards, sophomore Andy Kay (North Easton, MA) and junior Matt Diggs (Seattle, WA), who combined for eight of eleven NCAA Tournament goals. Kay finished with a dozen tallies including five in the NCAAs as the team's leading scorer, while Diggs notched 19 points (7g, 5a). All-American candidate and co-captain Tim Christian (Agawam, MA) commanded the midfield throughout the season, catalyzing the offense ith eight goals and all four of his assists in the post-season. Men's soccer, who had earned Amherst's first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament, will return at least 14 players from the Final Four squad. The Jeffs are the only team in the top-five that was formerly unranked before post-season play.
Women's Soccer Recap
Coming off its first NCAA Final Four appearance in 1996, women's soccer looked to return to Championship weekend in 1997. Despite suffering a loss in their second game of the season, the Jeffs rebounded with an 11-game win streak where they outscored opponents 29-7 with four shutouts.
Cruising to the first five wins of the streak, Amherst found itself tied 0-0 with Middlebury at the end of regulation to force only its second overtime situation of the season. Katie Hersey (Westford, MA) capitalized on a throw-in just four minutes into extra time for the first of her three game-winners in her junior season. She followed up two weeks later in OT against Wesleyan with another blast for the victory and Amherst's fourth straight Little III crown.
Completing the regular season with a 12-2 record, Amherst claimed its fourth straight NCAA invite as the top-seed and host of the Metro Region Championship. The Jeffs disposed of Western Connecticut 2-0 in the semifinals before facing its biggest challenge of the year against William Paterson. Despite a 2-0 deficit late in the game, the Jeffs were confident of a comeback after scoring twice in the final 12 minutes against Wesleyan before Hersey's game-winner. As the seven minute mark ticked away, All-American Shaunette Richards (Mays Landing, NJ) put the Jeffs on the board with 6:09 on the clock. Just 47 seconds later, sophomore Katie Connelly (East Granby, CT) equalized to force extra time. The teams slogged through two scoreless periods before facing sudden death, a fate handed to the Pioneers in the 131st minute on Connelly's second blast of the day.
While falling to Elizabethtown in the national quarterfinals, Amherst tied its record for most wins in a season, originally set in 1995. The Jeffs will graduate seven seniors who compiled a phenomenal 51-9-6 record over four years, including a 6-4 showing in four NCAA appearances. Amherst will sorely miss All-Region selections Ellie Hickerson (Davenport, IA), Richards, Laura Kochansky (Newton, MA) and Erika Johnson (Newton, MA), but will return its top two scorers for 1998 in Hersey (10g, 4a) and Connelly (7g, 4a).
NSCAA/Umbro Final Division III Post-Tournament National Rankings Men's Soccer Women's Soccer Rank Last School Record Rank Last School Record 1 1 Wheaton (IL) 24-0-1 1 2 UC-San Diego 20-2-0 2 17 College of NJ 17-6-0 2 5 William Smith 18-4-0 3 11 Mary Washington 21-3-1 3 11 Washington (MO) 17-4-1 4 NR Amherst 12-5-2 4 NR Elizabethtown 19-5-2 5 18t Gettysburg 16-4-2 5 3 Mary Washington 19-2-2 6 18t Ithaca 15-5-0 6 4 Macalester 19-2-0 7t NR Ohio Wesleyan 16-8-0 7 20 Amherst 14-3-0 7t 15 Cal Lutheran 17-3-2 8 24t Middlebury 13-4-0 9 3 Kean 20-2-0 9 6 Calvin 19-2-1 10 13 Plymouth State 15-3-1 10 7 Plymouth State 15-3-0 # # # 12/5/97