WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- A phenomenal overall team performance carried the Williams College men's soccer team (6-2-0) to a solid 1-0 win over Skidmore College (6-4-2) Saturday afternoon at a foggy and dew-covered Cole Field.
The lone goal of the game came after the Ephs had been pressuring the Thoroughbreds' penalty area since the kickoff of the second half. After the fourth time Thoroughbred junior Adam Beek had been caught offsides, the Ephs took the resulting free kick quickly down the left wing to Eph junior Nathan Miller, who put on one of his many displays of skill to earn a corner for the Ephs on the left side. Fellow junior Matt Muralles took the corner, swinging in a wonderful cross onto the near post which connected perfectly with the head of Eph senior Matt Kastner, whose beautiful flicked-header found the back of the net just inside the right post, past the outstretched arms of Thoroughbred sophomore goalie Eli Kisselbach.
After the game, Ephs head coach Mike Russo praised Kastner's performance: "We were very fortunate to score on the corner. Matt had a great effort all day, and it was a great header for him to give us the win."
The Ephs started off the game firing on all cylinders, coming very close to scoring a goal inside of four minutes. A foul committed by Thoroughbred junior Andy Ringler on Eph sophomore Geoff Danilack only 30 yards from the goal on the left side of the field gave the Ephs a good look at a cross into the box. Muralles foreshadowed the later goal by launching a beautiful ball onto the back post, where Kastner was able to latch his head onto the ball, but was denied a goal by a nearly impossible angle that forced his header into the side-netting.
Skidmore had a chance to open the scoring themselves in the 12th minute, when Skidmore junior Brock Bakewell streaked down the right wing with the ball, only to lay off to Beek at the top-right side of the box. Beek took a single touch to control, another touch to turn, but he lost his balance as he turned, forcing his shot high over the crossbar.
It was only moments later, however, that Beek redeemed himself by dispossessing Eph junior Andres Burbank-Crump, driving down the right flank, and returning the favor to Bakewell, sending in a nicely struck cross that was headed just over the bar by Bakewell.
The Ephs high-pressure attack was only reinforced when Miller, sophomore Mohammed Rashid, and senior User Kushaina were subbed on twenty minutes into the game. The effect of Miller was immediately seen as he began to dominate the midfield and win more possession for the Ephs.
In the 28th minute, Burbank-Crump sent a beautiful lob pass all the way from the left back position to the right wing position, connecting with Eph freshman Malcolm Moutenot. Moutenot held the ball up as he waited for reinforcements in the box, but he drew a foul before he could cross the ball. Burbank-Crump took the free kick from about 24 yards away from goal, just outside the top-right side of the box, sending his curling left-footed shot inches wide of the target.
Six minutes later, it appeared that the Ephs had broken the deadlock when Burbank-Crump initiated another good opportunity for scoring, sending a lofted pass from the deep midfield up to Miller who beautifully laid the ball off with one touch for Muralles who immediately sent the ball through a pair of Thoroughbred defenders looking for Rashid as he made a beautiful knifing run. Rashid collected and slotted the ball under the left arm of Kisselbach, but the assistant referee's flag went up as the ball crossed the goal line, nullifying the goal for an alleged offsides on Rashid.
The Ephs came out hungry for a goal in the second half, and the industry of Nathan Miller ensured that the goal became a reality just nine minutes into the second half when Muralles' corner found Kastner's head and then the back of the net.
The Thoroughbreds responded to the goal very well, however, pressuring higher up the field and creating better opportunities for scoring.
Three minutes after the goal, increased pressure from Beek forced Eph senior centerback Dan Lima to make a two-footed sliding tackle to deny Beek a good look at goal. Lima received a yellow card for his foul, and Beek's free kick into the box was parried away by senior goalie Peter Morrell and then cleared by Lima.
On the ensuing counterattack, Muralles sent yet another beautiful through ball up the field, this time down the right wing to the streaking Kastner. Kastner drove to the touchline where he sent a cross into the box, looking for the leaping head of Eph junior Zach Grady. The ball, however, just managed to elude Grady's outstretched head for what surely would've doubled the Ephs' lead.
The Ephs had another opportunity to double their lead in the 70th minute, when Moutenot lofted a long throw-in toward the Thoroughbred penalty area, eventually finding the feet of fellow freshman Patrick Gordon. Gordon fought off several defenders to send a pass to the outskirts of the penalty area to Rashid, who faked out his defender to beat him to the touchline, where he sent a low cross to Kushaina right in front of the near post, who turned and skied his shot over the crossbar.
It seemed impossible for the Ephs not to score another goal, but the Thoroughbreds proved that they had not given up eight minutes later when some defensive confusion resulted in Kisselbach being off his line trying to retrieve a ball that he didn't win. Kisselbach's attempt to collect the ball resulted in the ball deflecting off his own body and landing at the feet of Muralles who was staring down an open net. The Thoroughbreds were only saved by the outstretched leg of freshman defender Andrew Blake as his knee denied Muralles his goal.
Blake's goal-line clearance inspired the Thoroughbreds to continue to push for an equalizer, and their best chance came four minutes later in the 82nd minute, when Thoroughbred sophomore Andrew Pertsov won a corner on left side after a great show of skill. The corner was taken by Beek, whose cross was cleared away easily. However, the clearance fell to Thoroughbred freshman Adebare Oyeniyi, whose proceeding shot was blocked by Lima. The deflection appeared to actually have helped the Thoroughbreds, landing perfectly for junior Robby Smukler who had cut through the Eph defensive line, but the assistant referee's flag went up for offsides once again, ensuring the Ephs' 1-0 victory.
After the game, Ephs head coach Mike Russo was very pleased with the overall team effort: " We'll take it: great effort, great intensity. Especially Nathan in the first half, he battled like crazy. It's not from want of effort because we have given that every minute and every game. We just need to be sharper with finishing our chances. Overall though, I'm delighted with the win."
Muralles joined Lima in the book when he picked up a yellow card in the 81st minute. Williams outshot Skidmore 21 to 14, with 6 shots on goal to Skidmore's 3. Kisselbach recorded 4 saves, while Morrell saved all 3 shots on goal, and Williams had 8 corners to Skidmore's 2.
The Ephs play again next Saturday away against Wesleyan at 11:30 AM. The Thoroughbreds play next at Bard College on Tuesday at 7 PM.