WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Sophomore Mohammed Rashid's brace and senior Dan Lima's goal carried the Williams College men's soccer team (10-5-0, NESCAC 7-4-0) to a 3-2 victory over Middlebury College (9-5-1, NESCAC 5-5-1) in the NESCAC quarterfinal game at Cole Field on Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers got off to a roaring start, as they scored their first goal less than three minutes into the game. Junior Harper Williams won the ball in the midfield and sent a lovely through ball to senior Sam Peisch down the right wing. Peisch collected the ball in stride and raced down the sideline, creating enough space to swing a cross into the center of the box, where on-rushing freshman Greg Conrad met the ball with his head, nodding the ball past the flailing right arm of senior keeper Peter Morrell.
Around the 25th minute the Ephs looked to begin to turn the game around, and it proved true two minutes later when Rashid found the back of the net.
The goal came on a counter-attack, as freshman Malcolm Moutenot collected a clearance in the Ephs' defensive-third and sent a lifted pass up the field to senior Matt Kastner who flicked the ball with his head right back into the path of Moutenot. Moutenot raced up the right wing and showed incredible strength to beat senior Panther defender Graham Kinsley, as he continued his run down the right side. Moutenot found himself with acres of space to slide his low ball across the face of the goal to the back post, where Rashid calmly finished past senior keeper Ethan Collins.
The Ephs and the Panthers went into halftime all tied up. The Panthers outshot the Ephs 10 to 9 in the first half, but also had 8 fouls to the Ephs' 4. The Ephs had 4 corner kicks to the Panthers' two, and each keeper had a pair of saves.
The Ephs came out in the second half and picked up right where they had left off, managing to score inside five minutes.
The sustained high pressure early on paid off as Rashid found himself all alone with the ball on the left wing. His cross, however, was deflected out, but Seitz was there to pick it up. Seitz's attempt to play a give-and-go with Muralles failed, but the ball fell kindly to Kastner, who laid the ball off to Lima on the right side of the penalty area, where he hit the ball first-time into the left corner of the goal, past the outstretched arms of the diving Collins.
After the game, Ephs head coach Mike Russo commented on Dan Lima's change of position to attacker for the day: "We thought that since Danny hadn't played for several games and since Geoff [Danilack] had looked so sharp, we moved Danny up front. He was so strong today, and his goal today was just outstanding. He didn't complain, and he did his job."
The Panthers immediately looked to strike back, creating a wonderful chance under a minute after Lima's goal. Peisch found himself free in the center of the Ephs' penalty area, where he receives a cross from the left wing, but he could only volley the ball over the crossbar.
The Ephs were not satisfied with just the one-goal lead, as they managed to double their lead just 7 minutes later. The goal came as a result of some truly wonderful stuff from junior Matt Muralles and Rashid. Muralles played a mouth-watering lobbed pass over the back of the defense, which Rashid controlled beautifully with a single touch. He took one more touch before slotting the ball under the right arm of Collins into the bottom-left corner of the net, doubling the Ephs' lead.
It looked as if the floodgates might open after the Ephs' third goal, as the Ephs created a pair of chances that both easily could have found the back of the net.
First, it was Rashid, who streaked down the left wing, racing past his defender to the touchline and crossing a beautiful ball to the back post, where Moutenot was waiting all by himself; however, Moutenot miss-timed his volley, skying it over the crossbar.
Just a minute later, Moutenot redeemed himself by showing some incredibly speed down the right wing, before cutting inside and laying the ball off to Muralles, who back-heeled the ball to Rashid. Rashid seemed to slip as he received the ball, however, causing him to lift the ball a little too high and over the crossbar.
However, the Panthers found their opportunity to pull one back in the 85th minute after a penalty was given against the Ephs for a handball inside the box. Williams made no mistake converting the penalty, smashing the ball into the left corner of the net, even though Morrell had guessed the right way.
It looked as if the Ephs would renew their two goal lead with just over two minutes to play, as a clearance out of the defensive-third fell to Kastner on the right wing. With nearly everyone forward for the Panthers looking for an equalizer, Kastner encountered no resistance taking the ball all the way into the Panthers' penalty area. As Kastner sent in his cross, Rashid rushed into the box all by himself, but he was unable to latch onto the end of Kastner's cross to complete his hat trick.
The game ended shortly thereafter, with the Ephs' back line ensuring that the Panthers did not have even a whiff of a chance to equalize.
After the game Coach Russo commented on his team's resiliency in spite of the early goal by the Panthers: "It was a tremendous performance. We got down early, but we stayed the course and played very well. Middlebury is a very good team, a very tough team. They have some real weapons up top, but we neutralized it for the most part today. Our wing play was just spectacular: Rashid was excellent, Malcolm did excellent work, and Matt Kastner was a workhorse all day. Everything was excellent today, and we are very pleased."
In the second, half Williams outshot Middlebury by a margin of 11 to 7, bringing the overall total to 20 for Williams and 17 for Middlebury, with 9 shots on goal for the Ephs to the 5 of the Panthers. Williams won another 4 corners, bringing the total to 8 for them, while Middlebury only won 2 more, bringing their total to 4. Collins recorded 4 more saves in the second half, bringing his total to 6, and Morrell recorded another save of his own, bringing his total to 3. There wasn't a single foul whistled on Middlebur in the second half, leaving their total at 8, but the Ephs were whistled for 8 more in the second half, bringing their total to 12 on the day. Muralles picked up a yellow card for time wasting towards the end of the game, but that was the only yellow card shown on the day.