Men’s soccer took on the Tufts Jumbos on Hitchcock Field this past Saturday, Sept. 17 in a battle of two top five nationally-ranked opponents. Two second-half goals gave the Jumbos the late win and handed Amherst its first loss of the season.
The Mammoths did not go down without a fight, though. Notching an early goal, the first of the game, sophomore Laurens ten Cate ’25 got his first of the season off an assist from sophomore transfer Simon Kalinauskas ’25 to put the Mammoths on the board and up a goal early in the game.
However, the Jumbos were not far behind, and after a scramble in the box a Tufts player found the back of the net to equalize only two minutes later. Undeterred, the Mammoths did not let their feet off the gas for the rest of the first half, battling and challenging the Tufts keeper relentlessly. But, with neither team finding a breakthrough, the teams went into the break tied at 1-1.
That wouldn’t last long. Only 45 seconds into the second half, sophomore Fynn Hayton-Ruffner ’25 sprinted down the right wing, laying the ball off to junior Jonny Novak ’24, who served a beauty of a cross to the back post where fellow junior Ada Okorogheye ’24E was waiting. Okorogheye, towering over a helpless Tufts backline, jumped and made contact with the ball, finishing the header in the bottom corner. The Mammoths were back on top.
Almost immediately after, though, Tufts again bounced back with one of their own, tying the game for the second time with an entire half left to be played.
With a little less than 30 minutes on the clock, Tufts got lucky again — this time off a header from a free kick that was just out of the reach of goalkeeper and captain Bernie White ’23E.
Responding with intensity, Amherst put pressure on the Tufts back line, firing off shot after shot, cross after cross, and shutting down Tufts’ offense. Junior Shawn Rapal ’24 led the charge for the Mammoths in the final minutes, as he hit not one, but two headers off the crossbar in the final minutes of the match. But despite the chances, the game ended 3-2 in favor of the Jumbos, and the Mammoths took their first loss of the season.
Sophomore Niall Murphy ’25 summed up the team’s disappointment at the loss. “[It was] a tough loss for sure,” he said. “We felt like we had stretches [during the game] where we pushed the pace and dominated. A couple of lapses of focus really cost us the game. The details really matter. All we can do is learn from our mistakes and keep moving.”
“Unfortunately, we got what we deserved from the game,” Okorogheye added. “Conceding three goals at home and giving up two leads in the speedy manner we did is a recipe for disaster, especially in a NESCAC game. Fortunately, we have three games this week, allowing us to right some of our wrongs as we look forward to getting back on the right track.”
And right those wrongs they did. In their Tuesday afternoon game against nationally-ranked No. 14 Babson College, the Mammoths dismantled the Beavers 3-1. Hayton-Ruffner found the back of the net for his third goal of the season just over seven minutes into the contest. Luck proved to be on the Mammoths side just two minutes later, as they cushioned their lead after a miscue in front of the net ended in a Babson own goal.
The score remained until the 73rd minute when Okorogheye, who had a hand in the Mammoths’ first two goals, finished off a brilliant individual run for the third goal of the game and his third goal of the season. The Beavers’ lone goal came four minutes later on a penalty kick, but it was too little too late — the Mammoths saw out the remaining 14 minutes for a 3-1 victory.
With a record of 4-1-1, the Mammoths will make the long trek to Maine this weekend for a matchup against Bates on Saturday, Sept. 24, before playing Colby on Sunday, Sept. 25.