The Division III men’s and women’s championships kicked off at Swope Soccer Village on Friday with eight different teams looking to take some hardware back to their campuses.
Amherst College and SUNY- Oneonta kicked off the semifinal night action for the men, and it was a physically fought game to say the least. Both teams were scratching and clawing for every inch, looking for that advantage to advance.
With neither team budging after 110 minutes, the game moved into penalty kicks at 0-0. From there the two teams continued to battle, but Amherst’s Milton Rico eventually put the last penalty kick in and gave the team a 4-3 advantage for a place in the national championship on Saturday.
Amherst will play Loras in Saturday’s final at 5:30 p.m. Loras beat Calvin 1-0 in Friday’s other semifinal.
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“I just did my role,” Rico said his winning kick for Amherst on Friday.
“Every single guy on the team has done something along the way. I didn’t see it as anything other than all of us coming together at that special moment.”
Goalkeeper Thomas Bull also had a big save to start the penalty kicks that seemed to put the team in the right direction.
“PKs are never easy, so getting a save early was definitely a confidence booster,” Bull said.
Throughout regulation, Amherst, 17-1-2, continued to battle forward with fancy flicks with its feet near the goal, but nothing seemed to stick until the final few minutes. Still Amherst coach Justin Serpone was proud of how hard his players competed.
“The effort is really inspiring,” Serpone said. “All night tonight, from the 1st minute to the 110th minute, guys dug in, sacrificed and worked really hard.”
Oneonta seemed to have a better handle on its offense in the second than the first half, but could not convert in the final stages of overtime.
“We had some chances in the game, but it never really broke our way,” SUNY- Oneonta coach Iain Byrne said.
In the women’s semifinals, Washington University, from St. Louis defeated Messiah College, in the first match of the day. It came down to penalty kicks where the Bears won on a 3-2 penalty shootout. Katie Chandler scored the lone goal in regulation for Washington.
In the second semifinal, it was back and forth action between Centre College and Williams College. After a quick goal in the first two minutes by Centre standout Destinie Graves, Williams came back with two goals of its own for a 2-1 win.
Both of Williams’ goals came from Natasha Albaneze.
The women’s final will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.