Amherst Falls to Messiah in NCAA Women's Soccer, 3-1
Courtesy Amherst Sports Information
GRANTHAM, Pa. – Erin Hench '12 netted a hat-trick to lead Messiah to a 3-1 win over Amherst in the NCAA Sectional Finals. Suffering its first setback during the 2011 season, the Lord Jeffs set a school record for wins with a 20-1-0 overall mark, despite falling to 23-8-3 all-time in Tournament play.
The top-seeded Falcons improved to 21-0-1 on the year, snapping Amherst's program-record 20-game win streak. Messiah will now advance to its eighth national semifinal, taking on William Smith in hopes of continuing its quest for a fourth national title.
Setting the tone early, the Falcons earned four corner kicks in the first 10 minutes, outshooting Amherst 4-0 during that span. Continuing to go on the offensive in the 15th minute, junior Elizabeth Phillips played a long through-ball from the midfield ahead to Hench, who slotted the game's first tally into the bottom right corner at 14:57.
Hoping to respond, the Jeffs pushed forward, registering seven shots over the remainder of the half, but senior keeper Autumn Reilly made a pair of stops during that stretch to preserve the Messiah advantage heading into the intermission.
After Messiah senior Jessica Shirk recorded a pair of shots within the first five minutes of the second, Lord Jeff junior Emily Little (Sherborn, Mass.) put a shot on goal at 52:25.
Switching fields, Hench and Corinne Wulf '13 tested Amherst senior keeper Allie Horwitz (Woodbridge, Conn.) with consecutive shots in the 55th minute but the Woodbridge, Conn. native rose to the challenge, keeping the Jeffs within striking distance.
Still down one with just over 10 to play, the Lord Jeffs moved into the attacking third in search of the equalizer. Alertly blocking down a Mel Stier (Deerfield, Mass.) attempt, the Messiah backline cleared the ball to smother the Amherst threat.
Quickly transitioning into the offensive zone, Hench settled a pass from junior Anne Trapp before notching a breakaway score at 80:03, suddenly staking Messiah to a two-goal lead.
Looking to climb back into the game Amherst fought back, registering a pair of shots over the next two minutes. Tracking down a through-ball to the top of the 18 in the 86th minute, sophomore Chloe McKenzie (Upper Marlboro, Md.) tucked a shot into the left corner of the Falcon net, trimming the Jeff deficit to one.
With a surging Amherst offense in search of a game-tying marker, Messiah countered just 50 seconds later when Hench slipped a hard rising shot from the right inside the far post, sealing the Falcon victory.
The Lord Jeffs finished with a slight 14-13 shot advantage while Messiah held a 7-2 edge in corners. Horwitz, who wraps up a decorated four-year career with a 49-13-4 record and 19 shutouts, made five saves while Reilly finished with five stops to improve to 20-0-1.
With the loss, Amherst bids farewell to a senior class that posted a 55-15-6 mark in four seasons in Purple and White. Together, Horwitz, Jess Wall (Glencoe, Ill.), Allison Dorey (San Francisco, Calif.), Jill Kochanek (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Claire Bennett (Westfield, N.J.) and Livia Rizzo (Dover, Mass.) helped the Jeffs earn a pair of berths into the national quarterfinals while appearing in three NESCAC championship games.
Capturing the program's first conference crown since 2003 (third overall), Amherst set a program record for wins (20) and longest win streak (20) in 2011. Horwitz, Kochanek and sophomore Sarah Duffy (Fairfield, Conn.) earned All-NESCAC honors for their efforts while teammate Kathryn Nathan '13 took home the conference's Co-Player of the Year honors.
Improving to 92-28-19 over the course of eight seasons, head coach Jen Hughes was named the NESCAC's Coach of the Year after helping to guide the squad to arguably its best season and the school's 11th NCAA Tournament berth.