Amherst, MA- With all of the storylines surrounding this match, it was bound to be entertaining, and entertaining it was. In their first home game of the season on a day when last season's national championship squad was honored, forward Jackson Lehnhart netted two goals for top-ranked Amherst, leading his team to a 4-2 victory over archrival Williams College.
Eph head coach Erin Sullivan was disappointed with the result today, saying, "Today was a very difficult day from the standpoint that we dug ourselves an early hole, managed to tie the match up twice, and then did not make enough plays to earn a result...We have to turn the page quickly and get back to the type of disciplined two-way play that has led to positive results. We play in a league where any team can win on any day so there is little margin for error. Each match demands our very best."
Williams drops to 5-1-1 (2-1/NECAC ), while Amherst improves to 5-0-1 (2-0-1/NESCAC).
For the first time this season, Williams encountered an opponent that responded to their constant energy on the pitch. From very early on in the match, the Ephs knew it would be a battle, as Amherst forward Jackson Lehnhart scored off a free kick in the second minute to put Williams quickly behind the 8-ball. This goal swung momentum to Amherst's way, and they refused to let the Ephs gain possession in their half for very long, using effective slide tackles and well-timed clearances to keep control of the match. This worked for most of the first half, but when the Amherst defense slipped, Williams was there to take advantage of the mental mishap.
In the 33rd minute, the Ephs worked the ball around the net, and off several rebounds and blocks by Amherst, junior defender Tobias Muellers slotted home his second goal of the season to tie the match at one. Amherst would not let this go unpunished, and responded quickly in the 40th minute, when a corner from Lehnhart was kicked around in front of the net, resulting in a top-shelf go-ahead goal from sub Bijan Zojaji. Amherst went into halftime with a one-goal lead but, of course, remembering that against a top-10 opponent in Williams, no lead is safe.
Presciently, Williams responded right away in the 47th minute, as sophomore Greg Andreou strode towards the Amherst goal, eventually passing to his right where star forward Mohammad Rashid was waiting. Rashid fired his team-leading fourth goal of the season straight past goalie Lee Owen, tying the match before Amherst was able to settle down for the second 45. The Ephs almost capitalized again soon after in the 51st minute, as midfielder David Madding got the ball at the top of the box with no defenders in his way, but he lifted the ball just a little too high over the net, keeping the score knotted at two apiece.
Both offenses started to pick up over the course of the half, and crisp passing and incisive runs became more prominent for each team. However, only one of these teams was able to take advantage of their improved offense, and that was the team with Jackson Lehnhart. Off a corner from Forest Sisk, Amherst and Williams battled for possession in front of the net when eventually Lehnhart got the ball and tapped it into the goal past Eph goalie Christian Alcorn to break the tie.
Amherst then capitalized on one last chance with a terrific goal from junior forward Weller Hlinomaz, who took possession of the ball from partner Chris Martin, dribbled towards the left edge of the box and, with pinpoint accuracy, thrust the sphere into the top right corner past a leaping Alcorn to score.
After the match, Sullivan insisted his team have a short memory of this match and remember what has made them so successful in recent weeks, saying, "We have to turn the page quickly and get back to the type of disciplined two-way play that has led to positive results. We play in a league where any team can win on any day so there is little margin for error. Each match demands our very best."
On the match, Owen recorded five saves, while Alcorn had three saves.
Williams continues its road trip tomorrow against NESCAC foe Bates in Lewiston, Maine at 3:00 p.m., while Amherst travels across the state to face M.I.T Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.