WILLIAMSTOWN, MA—The game was already over. The Williams men's soccer team had outdone visiting Endicott in every statistical category—23-6 in shots, 6-1 shots on goal, 11-2 in corner kicks—but neither team had scored. This was going to be a 0-0 draw between two .500 teams.
Then, just as he did last week against Middlebury, Zach Grady broke the ice and rewrote the story. The senior scored through a slur of bodies in the box with less than 30 seconds left in double overtime to give the Ephs (5-4-1, 3-2-0 NESCAC) a hard-fought win over the Gulls. (5-6-1, 1-2-1 CCC). The goal was Grady's seventh of the season; he now leads all NESCAC scorers in goals and total points (14).
As with Grady's Middlebury winner, the finish came quickly. Andrés Burbank-Crump's initial cross into the box looked innocuous enough, especially when Jorge came off his line to snatch it out of the air. But he could not handle the ball cleanly. As Jorge's defense massed around him and scrambled after the ball, Michael Madding delivered a clean backheel to the feet of Grady, who poked his shot untouched through the madding crowd before sprinting to the stands to celebrate with the Williams faithful. "Everything happened so fast," said Grady. "I saw so many guys in the box, and just tried to get it away from the guys that I could see."
Grady's tally capped off a long afternoon of largely one-sided play, as the Ephs controlled the tempo for much of the contest while the Gulls looked to counter, not with a little success. "We had so many opportunities," said Williams coach Mike Russo after the match. "I thought we totally controlled the rhythm of the game. The ball just wouldn't go in."
The same held true for the Gulls, who came inches from opening the scoring twice in the first half. Given a free kick from 30-yards out in the 9th minute, Shintaroh Itoh clanged a curling shot past Williams goalie Christian Alcorn and straight off the post and back into the box before finally being cleared away. Less than a quarter hour later, the Gulls' opportunism nearly netted them a goal when Diego Slobotzky followed up on a through ball, pounced on a poor first touch from Luke Pierce and fired wide of Alcorn's far post.
Meanwhile, the Ephs were getting their bearings. Following yesterday's disheartening 2-1 loss at Skidmore, Russo shook up the starting lineup and deployed three different sets of attacking players for 15 minutes apiece. "I don't like to do that," said Russo. "But we were very disappointed yesterday, and we wanted to give everyone a chance."
It was the last of these groups that nearly put the Ephs on the board in the first half, with JC Bahr-de Stefano at the center of the action. The sophomore midfielder ran onto a header from Tom Young and one-timed a ball across the face of goal. There, Malcolm Moutenot rammed a shot that Endicott's Alex Jorge stopped but could not control. The Gull keeper could do nothing but watch as Bahr-de Stefano collected the rebound and rolled it—wide.
Russo's mixing and matching paid dividends again in the second half. Brandon Dory looked more comfortable holding up the ball at striker after last week's brief tour into the backfield, while freshman Malcolm Singleton provided an energizing injection of speed down the right wing time and again. "He's got great pace and quickness," said Russo on Singleton. "We may have to figure out how to use him more."
The corners, the crosses and the shots kept coming for the Ephs throughout the match, only to be canceled every time by Jorge's excellent positioning and his defenders' shot-blocking tenacity. For 109 minutes, the Gulls withstood rush after rush while battling through their third overtime contest in less than a week. In the 110th, though, they were finally undone. "They battled and battled," said Russo of Endicott's effort. "That's just soccer: the game can change in a moment."