WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- Phenomenal passing was the story of the day, as the Williams College men's soccer team (8-3-0, NESCAC 5-3-0) hosted Tufts University (6-5-1, NESCAC 4-4-0) Saturday afternoon at Cole Field. Eph junior Matt Muralles' penalty kick conversion in the 81st minute proved the difference when the dust settled, as the Ephs were victorious by a margin of 2-1.
The penalty chance came as a result of Jumbo freshman keeper Scott Greenwood, bringing down senior Matt Kastner in the penalty area. Kastner, who was one-on-one with Greenwood, had poked the ball toward goal, out of the reach of Greenwood, resulting in Greenwood swiping Kastner's legs out from under him instead of the ball. The referee had no choice but to award the Ephs a penalty and show Greenwood a red card. Muralles calmly stepped up, sent the newly subbed-on sophomore keeper Nick Moeser the wrong way, and fired the ball home.
The Eph backline, led by a strong performance by junior Luke Pierce, ensured that no equalizer was allowed in the dying minutes with the Jumbos down to ten men.
The Ephs came out very quickly in the first-half, looking for a goal. Their aggressive play bore a great chance just inside seven minutes, when some of the Ephs' great passing went on display. Sophomore Mohammed Rashid slid a ball from the midfield up to junior Nathan Miller, who smartly laid off for Muralles on the right side of the Jumbo penalty area. Muralles then stung the hands of Greenwood, but the save was a good one.
After the Jumbos had weathered the initial attacks of the Ephs in the first fifteen minutes, they began to work their own offense into the game.
In the 24th minute, the Jumbos created their first good chance of the game, when senior Scott Blumenthal chipped a great pass up to sophomore Connor Brown who appeared to be one-on-one with senior Eph keeper Peter Morrell, but Pierce boxed Brown out, forcing Brown to drag him down to try to get to the ball. Brown was called for the foul, and his reaction to the call garnered him a yellow card.
The back-and-forth attacking continued, as the Ephs created another good chance to score six minutes later, when a great exchange of passes between junior Andres Burbank-Crump and senior User Kushaina, resulted in a beautiful flick by Kushaina to the right side of the field to Rashid, who immediately put the ball back in Kushaina's path on the right side of the box. Kushaina collected and took a shot on goal, but Greenwood once again saved nicely.
A goal finally came in the 43rd minute, but it was for the Jumbos. The build-up started a minute earlier when the Jumbos countered off a long throw-in. Junior Kento Nakamura sent a long, lobbed pass up to senior Sam Atwood, who intelligently held the ball up, as support streamed in from the midfield. Once support had arrived, Atwood sent his cross from the right side into the box where a pair of shots were fired off by junior Kyle Volpe and sophomore Monil Patel, but both were blocked by the Ephs' defense. The ball deflected out to the top-left side of the Ephs penalty area, where Jumbo sophomore Jason Kayne was waiting to possess it. Kayne wasted little time settling the ball before striking it beautifully toward the top-right corner of the goal, grazing the fingertips of Morrell but not enough to divert the ball away from the back of the net.
To extinguish the bitter memories of last week's 1-0 loss to Bowdoin, the Ephs allowed only seven minutes of the second half to elapse before equalizing.
The Ephs' first goal also came from a counterattack, this time off a corner. After receiving a long pass from the Ephs' backline, Muralles chipped a pass to Kastner who headed the ball right back down around a defender to Muralles, who then put Rashid through on the right wing. Rashid streaked down the right side to the touch line, where he sent a gorgeous cross to the back-post, where Kastner was waiting to connect his foot with the ball. Kastner's initial shot was saved well by Greenwood, but Greenwood's parry fell right back to the feet of Kastner who made sure that his next shot would not be kept out, tying the game up at a goal apiece.
Tufts did not let the level score deter them, however, as their high-pressure continued. They had a great look at goal in the 62nd minute, when Brown possessed the ball at the top of the Ephs' penalty area, spun Eph senior center-back Dan Lima to send a scorcher toward goal, but Morrell did very well to body block the shot away from danger.
Eight minutes later saw another chance for the Jumbos, when sophomore Troy Ritter was called for a handball only 20 yards away from his own goal. The ensuing free-kick was taken by sophomore Rui Pinheiro, but the hulking defensive wall of the Ephs made sure that Morrell had nothing to worry about.
It looked as if the Ephs might take the lead in the 75th minute, when Ritter headed down a pass for Muralles, who once again played Rashid through the defense. However, a great recovery by Jumbo sophomore centerback Connor Schaible allowed him to block Rashid's ensuing shot.
The game-winning goal came six minutes later, putting the Ephs back on the right track.
After the game, Eph head coach Mike Russo was elated by the victory: "This was our home ground, and we know that we don't like to lose anywhere, especially not here. I think that that gave us a little extra boost, plus the fact that hosting a NESCAC tournament game might have been on the line."
Tufts outshot Williams 16 to 12, but Williams had more shots on goal by a margin of 6 to 4. Greenwood made four saves, his compatriot, Moeser, made none, and Morrell had 3. Williams had 8 corners to Tufts' 4, and Williams had 9 fouls to Tufts' 11.
The Ephs next play on Wednesday night at 7:30 away against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The Jumbos next play away against Hamilton next Saturday at 2:30.