Women's soccer edges MIT 1-0 on Laino's goal

Women's soccer edges MIT 1-0 on Laino's goal

WILLIAMSTOWN, Ma. – No. 4 women's soccer (10–0–1, 6–0–1 in the NESCAC) edged No. 13 MIT 1-0 this afternoon on Cole Field. Both teams entered play unbeaten, and the Ephs handed the Engineers – who had won 12 straight games to start the season – their first loss.

Williams started the game with a series of strong attacking sequences. Crisp one-two passing and fluid movement created several early chances, though MIT defended impeccably.

Forward Natasha Albaneze '18 won a corner in the first minute. Tri-captain Jacqueline Simeone '18 delivered the ball into the penalty area, and defender Liz Webber '20 headed it on goal. MIT goalkeeper Lily Mueller, however, made the save.

Midfielder Natalie Turner-Wyatt '19 had a chance in the fourth minute when an MIT defender slipped at the edge of the box. Turner-Wyatt took the ball around the goalkeeper, but her shot was cleared off the goal line by Engineers defender Jacqueline Simmons.

Ilana Albert '21 had a chance for the Ephs in the 12th minute. Cutting in from the left wing, she had a shot blocked by MIT's Hailey Nichols. Albert got the ball back, but Nichols cleared her second attempt off the line.

The home side threatened off a corner kick in the 14th minute. Turner-Wyatt headed a corner kick toward the bottom-left corner, but Engineers forward Olivia Struckman was standing at the post and prevented the goal.

Williams came close to a score again in the 16th minute. After Sarah Kelly '20 linked up with Alison Lu '20 in the penalty box, Lu laid the ball off for Victoria Laino '21. Laino's shot clinked off the crossbar and out.

The Ephs pressed with intensity in the early stages, but the Engineers started to get forward in the latter part of the first half. MIT forward Amy Apostol made a dangerous run, but Webber made an important challenge to prevent the danger. Struckman had a shot at the edge of the box in the 25th minute, but it was blocked by tri-captain Danielle Sim '18. 

MIT had its best opportunity of the half in the 32nd minute. Sophomore forward Claire O'Callaghan received the ball on the right wing, cut inside and drilled a shot that went wide of the far post.

Williams pushed for a goal toward the end of the first 45, and defender Madison Feeney '19 provided two magnificent deliveries into the box. Kristina Alvarado '19 got on the end of both services but was unable to put the ball on net.

The first half finished scoreless. The Ephs had a 12-2 advantage in shots in the period. Mueller made six saves for the Engineers, while Eph goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill '18 did not face a shot on goal.

The visitors had a chance shortly after restart. Sophomore midfielder Emily Berzolla sent in a free kick, and the rebound bounced to junior midfielder Allie Hrabchak, whose shot went over the crossbar.

Albaneze nearly got through to goal in the 54th minute, but MIT defender Hailey Nichols slid in at the last moment to break up the chance.

The Ephs broke the deadlock in the 59th minute. Turner-Wyatt drew a defender near the top of the box and set Laino up with a shot. Laino drilled a superb 20-yarder into the top-left corner to put Williams up 1-0.

After falling behind, MIT directed its attack along the wings, looking to capitalize on the athleticism of its wide players. O'Callaghan, Struckman and Chessa Hoekstra were focal points of the Engineers' offensive moves.

O'Callaghan made a strong run down the right flank in the 69th minute and sent in a cross after beating her defender. Barnhill, however, smothered the ball before an Engineer could arrive in the box.

The Engineers won a free kick from a dangerous position with in the 89th minute, threatening a late equalizer. However, Berzolla's shot missed over the bar.

The final whistle blew with Williams ahead 1-0. The Ephs had a 19-5 edge in shots and a 10-3 lead in corner kicks. Mueller made nine saves for the Engineers.

Williams head coach Michelyne Pinard was pleased with her team's collective defending, especially in the first half.

"Our backs did an incredible job keeping us compact," Pinard said. "Everyone put pressure on the ball. That was the difference between the first and second half; we let them play more in the second half.

"I was thrilled with our first half. In the second half we let them in, and you can't let a team like that in. It's a good lesson for us to get a result and learn that we can play a more complete 90 minutes."

The team's new system this year allows for different players to get involved in the attack, and several players had opportunities in the first half.

"We had great chances at the beginning of the game," Pinard said. "Since we're keeping the ball in our attacking half more, we have more options of who can get involved in the attack. When we're firing on all cylinders and everyone is thinking one step ahead, we're really dangerous and really dynamic. It's fun to watch as a coach."

Williams travels to Middletown, Conn., to play Wesleyan next Saturday at noon.