In its first NESCAC matchup of the season, the men’s soccer team drew the No. 8 Middlebury Panthers 1-1 on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Hitchcock Field. The final score was surely disappointing for the Mammoths, given that they scored first, controlled the bulk of possession, took more shots, and came tantalizingly close to snatching a winner in the last 10 minutes. It was just the second game of the season for the Mammoths, who entered the season ranked No. 2 in the nation by the United Soccer Coaches following a 2022 campaign where they reached the NCAA Division III National Championship game and won 17 of their 22 matches.
From the beginning, the match was bogged down in the midfield, as the two highly physical teams prevented each other from controlling possession or stringing multiple passes together.
Still, the initial chances went Amherst’s way. Sophomore forward Fynn Hayton-Ruffner ’25 forced the Middlebury keeper to make the first save of the game after 12 minutes of play, and classmate Ben Clarke-Eden ’25 followed him up with a header that sailed just left of the post.
In the 29th minute, the Mammoths produced the first clear-cut chance of the game. Aidan Curtis ’25 headed the ball into open space for Niall Murphy ’25. Murphy outran his defender, setting up an one-on-one with the Panthers goalie. Murphy was sure not to squander his opportunity. He slotted a low, right-footed finish past the goalie to make it 1-0. However, the Panthers looked increasingly dominant after conceding, keeping the ball in the Mammoths’ half for much of the next 15 minutes. They had the best chance after the goal — a header off a corner that was on target but saved by goalkeeper Bernie White ’23. The Mammoths entered halftime on track for a 1-0 victory, in what seemed destined to be a repeat of last season’s Amherst-Middlebury contests, both of which ended in one-goal wins for the Mammoths.
The Panthers emerged from halftime determined to write a different story, though. They kept up the pressure, taking three times as many shots in the first 10 minutes of the second period as in the entire first half. This pressure eventually led to a Panthers breakthrough in the 67th minute. Following a spell of possession for the Mammoths and dazzling dribbling from Ada Okorogheye ’24 down the right side of the pitch, the Panthers won the ball just outside their own 18-yard box. Before the Amherst back line could adjust, the Panthers sprung a counterattack, with Jordan St. Louis slotting a left-footed finish past White to silence the crowd and even the scoreline.
Across the last 20-odd minutes of the game, the Mammoths threw in everything they had in an attempt to salvage the win. Their final 10 minutes was by far the most dominant stretch for either team all day. In a three-minute stretch between the 83rd and 86th minutes, the Mammoths got off five shots, almost as many as they had in the entire first half.
But despite the onslaught, the ball refused to find the net. The most tantalizing opportunity came with less than three minutes to play, when Okorogheye found himself running free in the right side of the box. He cut the ball back for Murphy, who seemed to have a point-blank chance. The ball was too far behind Murphy, though, and as it rolled past him and out of danger, the tie held, bringing Amherst’s record to 1-0-1 on the season.
Whatever anger the Mammoths might have built up following the Middlebury game was unleashed on the unfortunate Thomas College Terriers the following day, Sunday, Sept. 11, in a game again played on Hitchcock Field. The Mammoths won 10-0, outshooting the Terriers 34-2 with 22 shots on goal to Thomas’ zero.
Micah Valadez Bush ’25 led the way with a hat trick and two assists. Also on the scoresheet were Okorogheye, Andrew Barkidjija ’23, Declan Sung ’24E, Hayton-Ruffner, Eads Fouché ’25, and Ioannis Hadjiyiannis ’26. The final Mammoths’ tally was a Terriers own goal.
With the win, the Mammoths are up to 2-0-1 on the season. They face Manhattanville College Wednesday, Sept. 14, at Gooding Field at 7 p.m before a highly-anticipated bout against Tufts on Saturday, Sept. 17.