Women's soccer edges Amherst 3-2, stays unbeaten

Olivia Barnhill '19 makes a stop
Olivia Barnhill '19 makes a stop

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – Women's soccer (6–0, 5–0 in the NESCAC) edged archrival Amherst (3–3, 1–2 in the NESCAC) 3-2 this afternoon in a hard-fought battle on Cole Field.

The game was closely contested from the kickoff, and the first half saw a rapid pace of play. The home side opened the scoring in the fourth minute. On the counterattack, Victoria Laino '21 picked out Sarah Scire '20 on the left wing. Scire played a pass through to Natasha Albaneze '18 in the penalty area, and Albaneze beat Amherst goalkeeper Chelsea Cutler to the ball. The reigning NESCAC Player of the Week tapped in for her third goal in as many games.

Amherst, last year's NESCAC champion, equalized in the 15th minute. A long ball forced goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill '19 to come off her line and clear. The ball fell to Amherst forward Hayley Roy, who played a ball to Rubii Tamen at the edge of the box, and Tamen's shot found its way into the net.

Victoria Laino '21 broke the tie in the 25th minute, scoring her first collegiate goal. A beautiful ball from Scire found Laino in the box, and the first-year volleyed in a left-footed shot to make it 2-1 Ephs.

Tri-captain Evan Gancedo '18 had a chance in the 40th minute. Madison Feeney '19 played a long ball to Gancedo in the box, but Cutler made a big save for Amherst.

Kristina Alvarado '19 brought the lead to 3-1 just before halftime. In the 41st minute, a free kick from Mikayla Kappes '21 bounced off a defender to Alvarado, who converted from just outside the six-yard box.

The possession battle was fairly even in the first half, and Amherst consistently put Williams defenders under pressure. Tri-captain Danielle Sim '18 and Liz Webber '20 were forced to into several tackles and clearances deep in Williams territory. Mammoth forward Hannah Guzzi used her speed to press and disrupt the Ephs' passing moves, and Sloane Askins captained the visitors' midfield, winning the ball and distributing to her teammates.

Barnhill and Cutler each finished the first half with a save, and the Ephs had a 7-5 advantage in shots at the break.

Chances were fewer in the second half, with the pace of play diminished. The visitors had the bulk of the possession in the final 45 minutes, as Williams looked to keep its lead.

The Ephs had a chance for an insurance goal in the 65th minute. Alvarado hit a streaking Ilana Albert '21 in the penalty box. Cutler, however, stepped up to make a key one-on-one save.

Amherst had a chance in the 68th minute, when the ball broke well for Guzzi on the left wing. She played a ball in to Mia Bongiorno, who forced Barnhill to save.

The Mammoths cut the deficit to one in the 81st minute. Delancey King sent in a corner, and Claire Nam headed a shot on goal. Barnhill made the save on Nam, but Guzzi was there to capitalize on the rebound, scoring her conference-leading fifth goal.

Down 3-2 in the final 10 minutes, the Mammoths sent players forward and ramped up the pressure. Amherst's best chance at an equalizer came in the 84th minute. After Tamen warded off several challenges on the right wing, Guzzi sent a shot into the side netting.

The final whistle blew with the Eph lead intact. The Mammoths finished with a 16-11 advantage in shots and a 6-3 edge in corners. Barnhill made five saves, and Cutler had two for Amherst.

The women continued their season-opening winning streak but saw their narrowest margin of victory this season. 

"3-2 is a very typical Amherst/Williams score," head coach Michelyne Pinard said. "It's always a high-flying game, and that's what it was today."

Although the Ephs had a possession advantage in most of their early-season games, Pinard said today's game was more balanced in that regard. She said the team's high conversion rate helped compensate the decreased time of possession.

"I'm very pleased with our conversion rate this year and certainly today," she said. "That helped us sneak this one out. Possession-wise, we could have done a better job. They put a lot of pressure on, so it felt like we didn't have time and space."

Pinard added that the team would take lessons learned in today's game to improve its play in the future.

"We were excited for this game because we knew they were going to point out some holes that we had," she said. "We weren't as tight as we could have been in our defending. We were organized, but we could have put more pressure on the ball. They were more dangerous than I would have liked, so our goal is to tighten up our defending tomorrow and going into next week."

The women return to Cole Field tomorrow to play against Bates at 11 a.m.