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Men's Semifinal 1 Preview

Other Previews:  Men's Semifinal 2 Women's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2

By Henry Loughlin

NCAA Division III Men's Soccer - National Semifinal 1

Friday, December 6 — 5:00 pm ET

No. 4  Amherst (18-1-2)

vs.

No. 21  Centre (20-3-1)

How they reached the Final Four

   Berth 1st / 2nd Rounds Sectional
Amherst Pool C at-large W6-1 Thomas (N)
W2-0 Ithaca (A)
W2-0 Rowan (H)
W3-1 RPI (H)
Centre SAA AQ W1-0 Kalamazoo (N)
W3-1 John Carroll (A)
W4-2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (N)
W3-2 Montclair State (N)

2019 Statistical Overview

   Record (Pct.) GSA : GAA (Diff.) Avg. OWP SoS vs. Top 25 Last Ten
Amherst 18-1-2 (.905) 2.55 : 0.60 (+1.95) .585 .604 2-1-2 9-1-0
Centre 20-3-1 (.854) 2.59 : 0.94 (+1.65) .584 .604 3-2-0 10-0-0

Head Coaches

Amherst

Justin Serpone, 13th year (2007-2019), 199-28-32 (.830)

NCAA's (13 of 13): 27-6-9 (.750) | 3rd Final Four | Champion ('15), Final Four ('08), Elite 8 ('12,'13)

Centre

Jeb Burch, 18th year (2002-2019), 226-87-35 (.700)

NCAA's (4 of 18 yrs.): 5-2-1 (.688) | 1st Final Four

Seniors' 4-year Record (through Nov. 24)

   Overall (Pct.) NCAA Appearances Record Advancement
Amherst 61-11-8 (.813) 16 17 18 19 8-2-2 Sweet 16: '17, '18; Final Four: '19
Centre 60-18-6 (.750) 16   18 19 4-1-1 Final Four: '19

Players to Watch

Amherst: #9 F German Giammetti (So.) – 22g, 4a, 9gwg (NESCAC POY, 1st team, All-Region 1st) | #10 M Cutler Coleman (Sr.) – 1g, 1a (NESCAC 2x 1st team, All-Region 2nd) | #7 F Dane Lind (Sr.) – 9g, 10a, 2gwg (NESCAC 2nd team, All-Region 3rd)

Centre: #17 F Alexander Garuba (Sr.) - 22g, 5a, 8gwg (SAA 1st team, All-Region 1st) | #13 F Will Newton (Jr.) - 8g, 5a, 4gwg | #14 M Dylan Barth (Jr.) - 8g, 4a, 4gwg (SAA 1st team)| #15 M Nafiz Budeiri (So.) - 6g, 2a | #3 D Michael Vogt (Jr.) - 1g (SAA 1st team, All-Region 1st)| #5 D Patrick Ferrell (Sr.) | #1 GK Tate Johnson (Sr.) - GAA 0.82, Sv% .795 (SAA 1st team)

Analysis

At the start of the season, three out of the four teams playing in Greensboro — Amherst, Calvin, and Tufts — would have been safe bets to advance to the Final 4. And while Centre — who finished second in the regular season in the Southern Athletic Association before winning the conference tournament to get the conference AQ — and its Cinderella status makes it tempting to label this clash a David-and-Goliath battle, the reality is that Centre has knocked off a number of dangerous teams this year, setting up for what should be a competitive, exciting game.

Amherst, led by head coach Justin Serpone, has been a New England and national mainstay for the last decade or so. Since his appointment in 2008, his teams have reached the Sweet 16 or better every season, including a national title in 2015 and a Final 4 appearance in 2008. And with the potential for an all-NESCAC NCAA final with Tufts, this team’s story is not done yet.

Centre is coached by Jeb Burch, a 1994 graduate of the school, and has been in the NCAA tournament three out of the last four years. This year, his team not only got its first NCAA win since knocking out then-defending champion Ohio Wesleyan in the 1st Round in 2012 (2-1, 2OT), but it advanced past the first weekend of NCAA play — then the second — for the first time in program history.

Amherst is led by German Giammattei, whose impressive 23-goal mark to date is even more impressive given that 14 of them have come in the NESCAC, the winning conference in four out of the last five NCAA tournaments. A shoo-in for NESCAC Player of the Year this year, Giammattei has been closely-marked throughout the season, but that hasn’t stopped him, as he’s racked up better than a goal per game to date, including the opener in the Mammoths’ 3-1 Elite 8 win over RPI. A threat like him is dangerous enough on its own, but he’s far from alone: classmate Dane Lind’s 11 goals and 11 assists from midfield are impressive — even without the numerical symmetry. And with multi-goal contributors in first-years Ignacio Cubeddu (5) and Ada Okorogheye (4) and junior Sebastian Derby (3) also in the ranks, there’s a lot more to stopping Amherst than simply shutting down Giammattei.

While plenty know about Giammattei, Centre boasts its own 23-goal striker in Alexander Garuba, who set up Will Newton’s overtime winner against Montclair State with a great ball into a dangerous area (one of his six assists on the year). A fifth-year who missed the 2016 season due to injury, his pedigree speaks for itself, as he earned United Soccer Coaches Second Team All-American honors last year, as well as SAA Honors the last three years (First Team 2018, 2019; Second Team 2017; Offensive Player of the Year, 2018). He’s not the only offensive threat Centre has, though: Newton, for his part, has 10 goals and 7 assists to his name; Barth has 9 and 4, respectively; junior Nathan Wilcox has logged 8 and 1, respectively; and sophomores Nafiz Budeiri (6g, 2a) and Ethan Noel (2g, 4a) have also scored more than once for the Colonels this year.

One of the big question marks for Centre is its goalkeeping — not in terms of quality, but rather whom will play between the pipes. Tate Johnson, who was the Colonel's starting netminder and a First Team All-SAA selection, was injured in the SAA Championship game against Oglethorpe, bringing unheralded sophomore Haydon Korfhage, who had played just three career games, into the fold. Korfhage has been a part of the team’s historic run, but, amid rumors of a possible return for Johnson, it remains to be seen whether he’ll be starting. For Amherst, sophomore Bernie White’s 0.50 GAA and .873 save pct. were both second-best in the NESCAC — the former by just 0.01 — this season, as he put together a stellar campaign in net for the Mammoths.

Like many high-pressing teams, Amherst’s success is often helped on putting an early goal on the board. That creates a virtuous cycle: it forces opponents to be more adventurous in search of a way back into the game, which, in turn, leaves the Mammoths with the advantage with more space to exploit on the counter. With that in mind, it is imperative that Centre weathers the opening flurry by the Amherst offense. The Mammoths tend to play the ball forward rather than passing around the back and waiting for an opening, so there will likely be a barrage of early offense coming at the Colonels — and, given Amherst’s abilities in the air and on set pieces, defending against them is much easier said than done. This isn’t to say that keeping out Amherst early is good enough — the Mammoths have scored enough late goals to prove otherwise — but the chances of a positive result for Centre will be much higher than going into the break, say, 2-0 down.

All this in mind, Amherst cannot afford to take Centre lightly. Garuba, for one, will undoubtedly attract a lot of attention from the Amherst defense, as would be the case playing against any striker with as many goals as he has. That said, with Centre’s own plethora of multi-goal threats, zeroing in on Garuba comes with its own risk, as the Colonels have plenty of firepower elsewhere. Ultimately, Garuba’s ability to bring his teammates into the game — as seen with his assist for Newton’s aforementioned winner — will be critical to Centre’s offensive success.

Compared to Amherst, Calvin, and Tufts, the Colonels — who had won just two NCAA games prior to this fall — are the team playing with house money, so to speak. With the margins tight and unpredictability at its peak, sometimes the team which plays with less pressure can weather the storm and create its own opportunities. An early Amherst onslaught could be terminal, but the longer the game goes on 0-0 — or, if Centre grabs a lead — the more you have to like the Colonels’ chances.

 

Other Previews:  Men's Semifinal 2 Women's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2

Comments or feedback for the author?  E-mail Henry Loughlin.

 

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