After Amherst College and Loras College battled for every loose ball, it seemed like any possession near the box would be precious in the NCAA men’s Division III championship game Saturday at Swope Soccer Village.
That proved true as a beautiful chipped ball by Bryce Ciambella in the 55th minute that hit the right side of the net to make it 2-1 and won it for Amherst.
It was also his first goal of the season, a pretty good time to help his team win its first national title.
“(Greg Singer) put me a breakaway on a one-on-one with the goalie and I put it away,” Ciambella said. “Credit to Singer on the assist.”
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After the final whistle, players were jumping around the field and giving out hugs to all the parents and fans that made the trip from Massachusetts.
“I really don’t believe it just happened, but it will sink in at some point,” Amherst head coach Justin Serpone said.
The game started out on a blistering pace with both teams getting goals in the first 15 minutes.
The first one came off the foot of Johnny Rummelhart of Loras, 18-5-1, in the ninth minute. He used some nice passes from his teammates to beat Amherst goalkeeper Thomas Bull. It was the first goal Bull had given up for the entire NCAA Tournament.
“It was big to get that momentum,” Rummelhart said. “It helped up us stay composed and collected.”
However, Amherst did not take long to counter. In the 14th minute, off a beautiful kick to the short post by Luke Nguyen, Jackson Lehnhart stuck his head out and sneaked it by the outstretched goalkeeper.
“Everybody’s in there to play their role and I just happened to be on the end of it,” Lehnhart said.
During the second half, Amherst used its large and physical backline to its advantage. Loras showed no fear taking on a high-jumping Amherst squad, but Loras was no match.
“Our size is definitely a positive for us so we use it and certainly helps us defend when you give up five goals all year,” Serpone said.
Amherst had five players on the all-tournament team including: Bull, Ciambella, Lehnhart, Andrew Orozco and Nico Pascaul-Leone.
Loras had Alex Bradley, Bryan Irwin and Jacob Peterson on the all-tournament team.