December 6, 2019

Giammattei's hat-trick puts Amherst in final

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

By Henry Loughlin

Photos by Dave Hilbert,

Sophomore forward German Giammattei celebrates the completion of his hattrick.


The first of two men’s semifinals on Friday night, this matchup pitted two teams with contrasting runs together. Amherst, the 2015 National Champion and a strong favorite coming into this season, had put together a somewhat straightforward progression to the Final Four, which included wins over Thomas, Ithaca, Rowan, and RPI. In those games, the Mammoths scored 13 and conceded two, winning every match by at least two clear goals. Moreover, for Justin Serpone’s side, German Giammattei had continued his regular season form into the postseason, scoring in three of four NCAA games prior to Friday’s matchup. Centre, meanwhile, had a more dramatic road to the final: After a 1-0 opening round victory over Kalamazoo, the Colonels put together a trio of high-scoring thrillers, beating John Carroll. 3-1, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 4-2, and, most notably, Montclair State, 3-2, a game in which Centre scored a 90th minute equalizer before winning 3-2 in overtime.

In addition to the dimension of their respective paths, this game pitted an expected Final Four team against a team that had surprised time and time again in the month of November. And while Centre fought admirably in its first appearance on such a stage — playing in December, no less — Amherst simply had too much for the Colonels, as a hat-trick from Giammattei resulted in the 3-0 final scoreline.


First Half

As the game kicked off, it was intriguing to see how two teams which know to attack would approach the game. Amherst was definitely the favorite, but the Mammoths knew that they couldn’t give any space to Centre’s offensive weapons, including 23-goal striker Alexander Garuba.

One of the important keys of the game for Centre, meanwhile, was to keep Amherst from getting on the board early, particularly given the Mammoths’ experience in kind of game. Amherst is particularly dangerous when it has a lead, as it enables the Mammoths to make the most of the space on the break, which usually wears down the other team and can turn a competitive game into a lopsided one very quickly.

Unfortunately for the Colonels — who survived a couple of early close calls — the Mammoths were able to breach their defense within the first 10 minutes. When it happened, there was little surprise where the intervention came from: Giammattei.

Off a scrum following a long ball, the striker attempted to play a short diagonal to an adjacent teammate. And while a Centre defender was able to get into the way temporarily and prevent him from getting the pass to his intended target, the ball fell kindly the second time for Giammattei. After taking some of the sting out of it with his left foot, he unleashed a right-footed laser on the half volley into the right corner of the net from just outside of the 18.

Despite going down a goal, Centre possessed the ball well, putting together some nice combinations. And while they looked threatening coming across the halfway line on a couple of different occasions, they couldn’t quite get the final ball off, and Amherst was able to relieve the pressure.

Thirty-one seconds after Garuba got off his first shot of the game, which was saved by Amherst goalkeeper Bernie White, Giammattei provided a killer blow in doubling the Mammoths’ lead. Again, he was in the right place at the right moment, finishing off a rebound of a shot initially saved by Center goalkeeper Haydon Korfhage.

Centre didn’t go quietly, as the Colonels kept trying to possess the ball and got off another shot through Nathan Wilcox. However, the game turned into somewhat of a midfield battle, and Amherst — despite ceding some possession — remained firmly in control, going into halftime with a commanding 2-0 lead.


Second Half

Amherst came out of the traps after the break, and Dane Lind put a shot over less than a minute into the half. And while Centre earned a corner kick in the 48th minute, that would be as close as the Colonels got to getting back in the game before the dagger came. As it had been to that point, it was Giammattei who had been the difference between the two teams, and that continued with Amherst’s No. 9 completing his hat-trick in the 51st minute.

Breaking into the box, Giammattei got an effort off with a Centre defender between him and the goal. His shot appeared to deflect off of his opponent, and that deflection took it beyond Korfhage and into the net for a 3-0 lead.

Shortly after the third goal went in, Korfhage was replaced by Centre senior Tate Johnson, the team’s starting goalkeeper for the majority of the season. Johnson was injured in Centre’s win over Oglethorpe in the Southern Athletic Association final, so Korfhage — who had played three career matches to that point — was brought into the fire, and played a significant role in Centre’s historic run, and it wasn’t entirely surprising that he retained his place for the Final Four match despite Johnson being fit. Even so, with the game seemingly over, coach Jeb Burch elected to give the latter some time and enable him to have a dignified career swan song in the Final Four.

Things started to get a bit chippy, as multiple yellow cards were issued to both teams. Amherst had further opportunities to extend its lead, as Ignacio Cubbedu shot over, and Declan Sung had a shot saved by Johnson.

With less than 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Centre had its best scoring chance of the day, as Will Newton rattled the crossbar before Nathan Wilcox fired over. The Mammoths then had two final bids to add some gloss to the scoreline, as Andrew Barkidjija got off two shots in 34 seconds, but both efforts were saved by Johnson. Despite both teams having some additional pressure, there was to be no more scoring, and Amherst walked off the pitch with a 3-0 victory.


The Grand Finale

Amherst will face a Tufts side that it knows very well in the final. Vying for NESCAC supremacy on an annual basis, they have been the top two teams in their conference most years. Regardless of where they’re contested — each team has an unbeaten record against the other at home since 2012 — these games are fierce and competitive, with both teams giving as good as they get in terms of spirited play. In NCAA action, they met last year in the Sweet 16, a game which resulted in a 3-0 win for Tufts, who went on to win its third title in five years. This year, Amherst got a modicum of revenge, as Giammattei himself scored a pair of goals en route to a 2-1 overtime win, but — as much as that was a decisive result in terms of home-field advantage for the NESCAC playoffs — its significance pales in comparison to the final act to come.


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