No. 5 Amherst handed first loss
Late goal, blocked penalty lifts Connecticut College past Jeffs
AMHERST, Mass. -- Connecticut College stunned fifth-ranked and previously undefeated Amherst with a dramatic 3-2 victory on Wednesday. Kevin O'Brien tallied two scores and put in the game-winning goal in the 87th minute to lift the Camels to victory.
Sophomore Casey Marini collected 10 saves and made a game-saving stab on a penalty kick in the 88th minute to protect the lead.
The Camels had not defeated an opponent ranked in the top five since Sept. 2009, when they knocked off a second-ranked Amherst team 4-1.
"This was a tremendous team effort for us," head coach Kenny Murphy said. "All of the forwards played well. To cap off the regular season with a win like this was special."
Amherst came from behind to tie the score at 1-1 late in the first half and again at 2-2 late in the second, but O'Brien gave the lead back to the Camels at 86:20. Spencer Noon lined up for a penalty shot in the 88th minute, but Marini made a diving stop and preserved the win.
Despite the loss, Amherst (11-1-2, 7-1-2 NESCAC) earned the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NESCAC Championship and will host eighth-seeded Colby on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Connecticut College (9-4-1, 5-4-1) finished the regular season as the sixth seed and will travel to take on third-seeded Trinity (Conn.) on Saturday.
Oscar Brown put the wheels in motion on the Camels' first goal when he beat his defender along the right side with some fancy dribbling. Brown then passed the ball into the box and found O'Brien, who ran on and pushed a shot past goalkeeper Lennard Kovacs for a 1-0 lead with 32:35 remaining in the first half.
Amherst's best chance of the opening 30 minutes came when Alejandro Sucre dropped a pass back to Noon, who popped the ball up to himself, turned to his right and volleyed a shot toward the upper 90 of Marini's goal. Noon's attempt was nearly perfect, but Marini made a save by punching the ball over the net.
The Jeffs hit the post in the 34th and 38th minutes and would finally break through with a tying goal at 39:35. Sucre took the ball away from a Connecticut defender on the left sideline, dribbled ahead and sent a cross to the middle of the field. Milton Rico ran onto the ball but purposely let it pass between his legs, allowing Mike Hoeksema to rip a low one-timer past Marini, closing out the first-half scoring with the teams knotted at 1-1.
The Camels regained the lead less than five minutes into the second half when a miscue by the Amherst defense led to an own-goal. The ball was played in from the right sideline and bounced into the box, deflecting off a Lord Jeff defender for a go-ahead goal with 40:09 remaining. Amherst hit the crossbar five minutes later and soon appeared to record the tying goal on a header from Julien Aoyama, but the Jeffs were whistled for offsides. The Camels had another good opportunity on a quick counterattack, but a shot from Billy Hawkey was knocked away by Kovacs, marking his lone save of the afternoon.
The Jeffs finally found a solution for Marini in the second half when Sucre played a ball into the box from the left side, allowing Casey McNamara to run on and pound a one-timer into the back of the net with 11:13 to go.
Amherst had all of the momentum heading into the waning moments of the second half, but O'Brien capped off his impressive day when he took a pass from Winslow Murdoch, got himself free despite being out-numbered deep in the Lord Jeff end, and lofted a shot past Kovacs for a go-ahead goal with only 3:40 on the clock.
Amherst was given a chance to tie the game for a third time when the Camels were called for a hand ball in the box, but Noon's attempt was corralled by Marini without a rebound attempt. The Camels held on in the final two minutes and prevented the Jeffs from posting what would have been the program's first unbeaten regular season since 1960.
The hosts held a 22-7 advantage in shots and an 8-2 edge in corners, but Marini proved to be the difference maker. Connecticut College has now defeated Amherst in three of the past four meetings, with Wednesday's result arguably being the most significant of the three, as the Jeffs began the week ranked fifth in all of Division III.