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Amherst rebounds from early-season disappointment

2015 Division III Men’s Soccer

Loras goalie Jacob Peterson snags a shot. He made five saves in the game, but the two Amherst goals he conceded gave the Lord Jeffs their first NCAA men’s soccer national championship. JEFF JACOBSEN / NCAA PHOTOS

The Results

CHAMPIONSHIP

Amherst 2, Loras 1

SEMIFINALS

Amherst 0, SUNY Oneonta 0 (Amherst won on penalty kicks 4-3)

Loras 1, Calvin 0

ELITE 90 HONOREE

John Admiraal, Calvin

Amherst College coach Justin Serpone didn’t give his team time to mourn a Halloween nightmare after the opening match of the New England Small College Athletic Conference tournament Oct. 31. The Purple and White had claimed the No. 1 spot in the National Soccer Coaches Association poll that week, but were bumped off, 1-0, by the NESCAC’s eighth-seeded team, Wesleyan University (Connecticut). “We need to regroup and get prepared for NCAAs,” Serpone said. “I believe we still have a lot of soccer left.”

The loss may have been disappointing, but panic wasn’t justified. Wesleyan’s goal was one of only five the Purple and White gave up all year, the fewest allowed in Division III. And the loss, Amherst’s only defeat in an 18-1-2 season, was just the third in the team’s last 78 matches. Goalkeeper Thomas Bull led the nation in goals-against average (0.225 per game) and save percentage (0.936), and Amherst’s 16 shutouts in 21 games ranked second in the nation.

So Amherst regrouped after the upset and resumed its dominant play. It didn’t allow a goal in the first four games of the NCAA tournament, including a 1-0 double-overtime victory over No. 2-ranked Trinity University (Texas). Amherst then limited Loras College to five shots on goal in the title match. Bryce Ciambella scored his first goal of the season on a 25-yard strike in the 55th minute, breaking a 1-1 tie and ultimately giving the Purple and White their first national championship.