WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – In the 2017 women's soccer season opener, Williams (1–0, 1–0 in the NESCAC) defeated Hamilton (0–1, 0–1 in the NESCAC) 3-1 on a rain-soaked Cole Field.
Early on, the Ephs looked to control possession and utilize space on the wings, while the Continentals attempted to play their forwards in with long passes.
In the sixth minute, Ilana Albert '21, a Pittsfield native, found herself in space on the left wing. She cut the ball inside, dodged a defender and launched a shot that ricocheted off the near post. The rebound fell to Alison Lu '20 in a fortuitous position, but the referee whistled for offside.
Hamilton earned the lead in the 20th minute. Williams goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill '19 made a one-on-one save on Katja Dunlap, but the rebound fell to an unmarked Amanda Becker, who buried the ball into the net.
Albert continued to create chances for the Ephs from the flank, and Katelyn Long '19 sent in a free kick that nearly connected with a teammate, but Hamilton retained its lead. In the 33rd minute, Dunlap forced a save from Barnhill. The Eph goalie rose to the occasion, however, and she caught the ensuing corner to avert the threat.
The score would remain 1-0 Hamilton until Erika Jung '20 scored the equalizer with 56 seconds left in the half. A powerful shot from 30 yards out sailed just past the Hamilton goalkeeper's fingertips.
The halftime whistle blew with the game in a 1-1 tie. Each team recorded three shots in the first half, and each had one corner kick. The rain was a major factor, as players from both teams struggled to keep their footing.
Both teams came out of the gate strong in the second half. In the 51st minute, Natalie Turner-Wyatt '19 evaded a tackle and played a ball to Natasha Albaneze '18, whose shot was saved by Hamilton goalkeeper Emily Dumont.
Becker nearly found the net again for Hamilton in the 52nd minute. Darby Philbrick passed to Becker in the penalty box, but Barnhill kept the shot out to keep the deadlock.
Tri-captain Evan Gancedo '18 put the Ephs up, however, in the 53rd minute. After receiving a pass from Albert at the edge of the box, Gancedo chipped a shot over the goalie to make it 2-1 Williams.
In the midfield, Gancedo and Victoria Laino '21 continued to win possession for Williams. Sarah Scire '20 doubled the Eph lead in the 69th minute. Scire won a free kick in the midfield, and after a Hamilton defender headed the free kick away, Scire found the ball at her feet again. She slotted her shot to make it 3-1 Williams.
Williams held its lead until the final whistle, and the match finished 3-1 in the Ephs' favor. A strong second half for the Ephs, which saw a 7-2 advantage in shots for the home side, made the difference. Dumont finished with two saves for the Continentals, while Barnhill, a Second Team All-NESCAC selection last year, had four saves for the Ephs.
Two first-years started for Williams, and two more made their collegiate debuts as substitutes. Head Coach Michelyne Pinard said she was pleased with the performance of the newest recruiting class.
"What makes them special is that they're complete soccer players," Pinard said. "They have the ability to cover a lot of ground because they're athletic enough, and they have the technical ability to play at this level. They showed that today."
Pinard had said before the game that the team would be implementing a new system this season – one that would better utilize space on the flanks. When she addressed the team at halftime, she emphasized the importance of communication and running into space for the success of the system. "You can practice it all you want, but you have to do it in the game," she said.
At the end of last season, the Ephs graduated All-Americans Kristi Kirsche and Audrey Thomas, the two top scorers in school history. Nevertheless, Pinard maintained that she is confident in the team's ability to replace the talented pair. "This team has always been a complete team," she said. "There's no doubt we're going to miss that class, but these guys are ready. They've been waiting to put their stamp on their program, and they did so today."
The women will travel to Hartford, Conn., to play Trinity on Saturday, with kickoff scheduled at noon.