Competing for the first time in nearly two years, the women’s soccer team began its 2021 season with dominant performances in its first three games. Over the course of the past week, the Mammoths won at Mount Holyoke, at Bowdoin and in their home opener versus Smith — all without relinquishing a single goal.
The team first took a short trip to South Hadley on Sept. 9 to play Mount Holyoke in what was Amherst’s first game since losing to Dickinson College in the second round of the 2019 NCAA Division III Tournament. The Mammoths came out blazing in their first half of the season, knocking in eight goals during the 45-minute period. The first goal, scored by forward Alexa Juarez ’23E, came just 43 seconds into the match as a header off a corner kick from midfielder Sophia Fikke ’22. Team co-captain Natalie Landau ’22, defender and forward Patience Kum ’25 and forward Liza Katz ’24 (a managing sports editor of The Student) led the rest of the way offensively for the Mammoths, each contributing two scores en route to a 9-0 rout.
Kum, a first-year playing in her first collegiate-level game, conveyed the joy shared by the entire team upon being able to play competitively this year. “I've had fun and enjoyed playing with my teammates. I did not imagine my first year to be as great as it's going right now. Getting playing time and scoring some goals has been the best experience. We have a hardworking and supportive team, and we’ve shown that,” she said.
On Sept. 11, the team headed up to Brunswick, Maine for its NESCAC opener against Bowdoin. The afternoon match was a more competitive affair than Amherst’s previous game, but an impressive individual performance by co-captain Ruby Hastie ’22, who recorded a hat trick, led the Mammoths to a 3-0 victory over the Polar Bears. The first of the three goals came off a 24th-minute assist from Katz, the second was assisted by Juarez in the 43rd minute and the final goal was a successful 53rd-minute penalty kick.
Defense also proved vital in securing a Mammoth victory versus Bowdoin. For most of the game, Amherst’s stalwart defensive presence entirely eliminated its opponent’s ability to attempt a shot on goal. There was one flurry of Polar Bear shots — four of Bowdoin’s five shots on goal came between the 11th and the 18th minutes. Goalkeeper Mika Fisher ’24, however, was able to deftly save all five shots and secure a clean sheet for the Mammoths.
Despite the team’s impressive showing in the first three games, Fisher was certain to point out that the Mammoths’ work is just beginning. “We are still finding our rhythm but that being said, the outcomes we've had and the momentum we are taking into our next games make me so excited for the rest of the season. These first games are just stepping stones to our major goals, which are defending the NESCAC title and competing for the NCAA title,” she said.
The Mammoths played their first home game of the year on Sept. 12 in an afternoon matchup versus Smith. After 35 minutes of back-and-forth play, Hastie was able to get the Mammoths’ offense on track with a strong finish from the right side of the 18-yard box. Kum latched onto this momentum by scoring a pair of goals in the 49th and 51st minutes. The first was a highlight-reel-worthy play in which Kum dribbled past six defenders before finishing in the top-left corner of the goal. The second was assisted by Katz and Landau off a series of one-touch passes, demonstrating the strong team play of the Mammoths. At the end of the match, the scoreboard read 5-0 for Amherst — an impressive cap placed on a 17-0 week.
Hastie, who was awarded NESCAC Player of the Week for her four-goal performance over the weekend, shared insight into how the team’s hiatus has affected its perspective. “It feels amazing to be back on the field again after so long. The team has been able to harness this energy and excitement that’s been building up over the last year and a half and channel it into really purposeful work towards our goals. This weekend, we were able to come out strong and aggressive from the first minute of each game because we know that we can’t take anything for granted,” she said.
With team unity apparently intact despite the pandemic, Amherst’s impressive first week allowed it to leap from 10th to fourth in the United Soccer Coaches’ ranking of Division III teams. Women’s soccer will look to continue its dominance and further its championship aspirations in its NESCAC home opener against Hamilton College on Sept. 18.