Was it the shoes? The identical neon-yellow Nike CTR boots that both players wear? Could it be the shoes?
Really, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that the two midfielders combined to create two late second-half goals to propel the Williams men's soccer team to a 3-1 win over NESCAC nemesis Trinity on Saturday. "There's a connection there," said Williams coach Mike Russo on the late fireworks that the pair provided.
Make no mistake: this was a match filled with strong individual performances aplenty. The two sides battled to a tense 1-1 draw well into the second half, with memories of the Bantams' comeback double-overtime victory still fresh in the minds of both squads. "That was our motivation this whole week," said Muralles after the game. Russo echoed those sentiments. "They came in with an edge," he said of Trinity.
It was Muralles who opened the scoring in the game's 18th minute, lacing a laser-beam with the outside of his right foot past Trinity's Jason Katz. Muralles' unstoppable shot finished a gritty sequence for the Ephs that began when Malcolm Moutenot bumped Trinity's Fernando Cuervo-Torello on the right side and slid a pass back to Michael Madding. Madding in turn found Muralles in the middle of the field, where he had enough time and space to take a touch before striking.
The Bantams, to that point quiet on offense, rallied after the goal and maintained the edge in play for the rest of the half. Less than five minutes after his team fell behind, Freshman Griffin Bossard was denied a near-certain equalizer by a sliding Andres' Burbank-Crump after Bantam senior co-captain Tim Shea carried the ball up the left side pas multiple Williams defenders before slipping Bossard an incisive pass inside the 18.
Trinity continued to press on offense after halftime and were quickly rewarded for their efforts with a gritty goal in the 50th minute. Shea found freshman Tobias Gimand free in the Williams box for an arcing shot that Christian Alcorn punched over the crossbar with an acrobatic leap. On the ensuing corner, Alcorn again punched the ball—this time, the straight up in the air. The Williams goalie lost his footing and positioning, and when the ball came down inside the crowded goal area Cassidy was there to hammer a header into the back of the net.
Undaunted after conceding their first goal of the young season, the Ephs fought back, outshooting the Bantams 13-5 for the remainder of the game and sprinkling shots all around Katz's net: a high curler from Madding sailing high here, a Muralles pounded away after a header by Luke Pierce there. "Our 'ball speed' in possession was very good," said Russo. "We did a good job of moving the ball quickly and were creating very good counterattack opportunities."
In the 75th minute, the Ephs broke through. Mark Sisco-Tolomeo's through ball set Young free down the right side. The freshman's momentum carried him to the touchline and past a Trinity defender before he fought his way toward the goal, and though his initial shot was blocked, he eventually found an unmarked Muralles near the penalty spot, leaving the senior free to tuck a simple finish into the lower left corner and put Williams back on top, 2-1.
The next goal came three minutes later and happened even faster. This time, it was Young who carried up the middle before playing Muralles into space on the right wing. Muralles dribbled for a split-second before lifting his head and sending a feed to JC Bahr-de Stefano, who beat Katz on the near side to finish a tic-tac-toe play on which the ball never left the ground. The goal was the first of the sophomore's collegiate career.
In some ways, Muralles and Young are about as unlikely an on-field duo to click as any pair of players on the Williams men's soccer team. Muralles, a senior, has been a mainstay on the Williams men's soccer team for over three years, appearing in each of the team's 63 games since arriving in Williamstown in 2011 and racking up a dozen goals along the way. That gives him 60 more appearances and 12 more goals for the Ephs than first-year Young, who notched his second assist in as many games. "We've been developing a good rapport in practice," said Muralles. "He brings a spark off the bench."
Though the Ephs' lead appeared secure at 3-1, the pace of the game remained frenetic and required sterling efforts from both goaltenders to keep the score line intact, as Alcorn made another leaping stop on Gimand and Katz stoned Mark Sisco-Tolomeo on a breakaway. Each keeper finished with four well-earned saves, but it was Alcorn who came out on the winning side of the ledger in a critical early test for Williams. "This is a tremendous result for us," said Russo. "They [Trinity] will win quite a few games this year."
Both teams now look ahead to non-conference opponents. Trinity will travel to Westfield State on Tuesday night, while the Ephs take on cross-state rival Babson at Cole Field tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 p.m.