WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- The sun beat down on Cole Field Saturday afternoon, as a rematch of last year's NESCAC Tournament first round battle between Williams College (4-2-0, NESCAC 2-2-0) and Connecticut College (3-2-2, NESCAC 0-2-2) men's soccer teams took place with the Ephs coming out on top after a first-half goal by junior Nathan Miller.
Miller put the ball into the back of the net just after the 19-minute mark. The build up began roughly a minute before when a free kick was conceded by Camel senior Ryland Hormel on the right side of the midfield. Eph junior Chris Seitz took the free kick, rolling a pass farther down the right-hand flank to sophomore Geoff Danilack. Danilack beat his defender to the touchline where he floated a cross across the face of the goal, making contact with a Camel defender's head before landing at the feet of Miller, who made no mistake slotting the ball right under the flailing left arm of Camel senior keeper Max Nichols to give the Ephs a 1-0 lead inside twenty minutes.
The goal came largely against the run of play, as the Camels controlled a vast amount of the possession in the first half. The Camels had created a wonderful chance of their own only eight minutes earlier in the 11th minute when junior Lucas Corrubia took a throw-in near the Ephs' right corner flag. Corrubia's throw-in bounced to the feet of the Camels' leading scorer, senior Billy Hawkey, who took one touch at the top-right side of the box to maneuver around his defender, another touch to round the goalkeeper, and a final touch to fire a shot into the side-netting from an angle that truly would've been spectacular to score from.
It took only four minutes more for the Camels to create another opportunity when freshman Eph Malcolm Moutenot was forced to foul Camel junior Kevin O'Brien after O'Brien had dribbled around him. Sophomore Camel center-back Colin Patch took the free kick from only 28 yards out, looping it over the Ephs' defensive wall but not firing it hard enough to finish the ball past Eph senior keeper Peter Morrell, who saved the free kick with relative ease.
It took only five minutes after the goal for each team to create an opportunity to score.
First, the Ephs put the Camels defense on their heels as sophomore Troy Ritter controlled a header in the center of the pitch before passing the ball to junior Matt Muralles, who sent a mouth-watering through ball to fellow junior Zach Grady who found himself one-on-one with Nichols. Grady's proceeding shot, however, was saved rather easily by Nichols.
On the Camels' ensuing counter down the right flank, freshman Camel Weller Hlimonaz made a streaking run, taking on and beating Eph junior Andres Burbank-Crump to cut in toward the box. Burbank-Crump, however, recovered well enough to make a sliding block of Hlimonaz's cross toward the far post, where a fellow Camel was waiting to equalize the score.
The remainder of the first-half was seen off by yet another great performance by a dominant Eph back-line, who never allowed the Camels a good look at Morrell's goal in spite of their large amount of possession for the twenty minutes leading up to halftime.
The Ephs came out of the gates flying after the break, as Muralles took the ball right off the feet of Hawkey moments after the kick-off. Muralles sent the ball toward the right flank to Grady who dribbled the ball level with the top of the Camel penalty area, where he laid the ball off to senior Matt Kastner, who skied the ball over the crossbar.
Ten minutes later, Kastner made a knifing run through the middle of the Camels backline to receive a through ball from Muralles out of the midfield. Kastner found himself once again with an opportunity to double the lead for the Ephs, as he dribbled into the box on the left side of the goal. However, he could not open his body up fast enough to curl his shot around Nichols, firing the ball right into the chest of Nichols, who then collected the ball before it could rebound to the waiting Muralles.
The ensuing Camels' counter created another opportunity for Hlimonaz, who looked to have cut through the Ephs backline, but junior fullback Chris Seitz came over to cover for his centerbacks, making an incredible sliding clearance to prevent Hlimonaz from being one-on-one with Morrell.
The Camels continued to turn up the pressure on the Ephs' defense as time ticked down.
In the 70th minute, another spell of offensive possession in the midfield resulted in Hlimonaz receiving a pass at the top-right side of the Williams penalty area. He took one touch to settle the ball before firing a curling, left-footed shot that was fortuitously blocked by Eph senior Dan Lima. The deflection fell to sophomore Camel Matthew Bitchell who sent a right-footed shot toward Morrell's goal that didn't quite have enough curl to find its way on target.
As the frustration grew for the Camels, more fouls began to creep into the game.
A tussle between Eph freshman Patrick Gordon and Hormel in the 73rd minute led to a free kick for the Camels that was intercepted by Ritter in the midfield. Ritter sent the ball forward to Muralles who took a pair of touches to settle the ball and rocketed his shot from thirty yards out that beat Nichols but caromed off the bottom side of the crossbar and away from goal.
Another confrontation took place six minutes later when Hlimonaz brought Danilack down hard in the midfield. As Hlimonaz walked away, Danilack spiked the ball in the direction of Hlimonaz. Danilack picked up a yellow card for the retaliation.
The Camels changed their formation to two strikers at the top with ten minutes left to increase their chances of finding an equalizer, forcing the Ephs to pack everyone in behind the ball. Yet, the Ephs' solid defensive performance saw out a last-gasp attempt by the Camels to find an equalizer with mere seconds left on the clock. A lofted through ball was sent into the Ephs' penalty area where Hawkey was looking to head the ball toward goal. A fine clearance by Lima, however, ensured the Ephs' victory.
After the game, Eph head coach Mike Russo was very pleased with the Ephs pulling out the win: "It's a great win because if we don't get that win then we find ourselves in the bottom-half of the NESCAC table. They're a very dangerous team, a dangerous attacking team. Our goalkeeper and backline did a wonderful job keeping their attackers out all day. I'm glad we're back on track."
Conn outshot Williams 17 to 15 with 4 shots on goal for each team. Conn had 3 corners to Williams' none and 10 fouls to Williams' 12.
The Camels next play at Farmingham State on Wednesday at 3:30 in the afternoon, while the Ephs' next matchup is another conference game at Middlebury on Tuesday at 4.