WILLIAMSTOWN, MA - The Williams Ephs (1-0-0) began their season with a 2-0 non-conference win over the SUNY Oneonta Red Dragons (3-1-0), who are coming off of a Final Four appearance on 2014. The Red Dragons, a team which did not concede a goal in the the first three games of the season, took on a revamped Williams team lead by Erin Sullivan in his first game as head coach.
The game opened up immediately, with Williams midfielder Tom Young (So.) getting a shot off by redirecting a cross from Mohammed Rashid (Jr.) only seconds into the match and forcing a save from Oneonta goalkeeper Vincent Pellegrino (Gr.). The ensuing corner from Rashid was benign but the early minutes of the game were dominated by an attack-minded Williams team.
Oneonta soon managed to respond by creating chances out of an explosive midfield. An early foul right on the edge of the Williams penalty box put the Ephs in a precarious situation, but the Red Dragons were unable to convert the cross. The game evened out as the half progressed with neither side able maintain a significant portion of the possession.
Mark Sisco-Tolomeo ended the early lull in the 36th minute after Malcolm Singleton's pressure forced a mistake from the Oneonta back line. Singleton retrieved the ball and tapped it into the path of Sisco-Tolomeo who, after maintaining possession following a defensive tackle at the top of the 18-yard box, shot the ball into the left corner of the net.
The Red Dragons came out in the second half with an attacking mindset and had a slew of early chances. Among others, Jake Sutherland's shot in the 47th minute was handily blocked by Eph goalkeeper Christian Alcorn, who was key to the Eph's success in this match. The Ephs also managed to create a few chances of their own early in the second half, the most notable coming from Young's cutting pass into space for Rashid in the 50th minute. Rashid's ensuing breakaway saw him beat the keeper to the left but then overhit his shot to the right of an open goal.
SUNY Oneonta goalie Vincent Pellegrino stopped four of six Eph shots on goal and allowed two goals in 90 minutes. Eph goalie Christian Alcorn denied both shots on goal by the Red Dragons in 90 minutes on his way to posting a clean sheet.
The Ephs looked especially dangerous on the counterattack, creating numerous goal-scoring opportunities from dead ball situations in their defensive half. Quick players like Rashid, Young, and Singleton allowed the Ephs to expose the Red Dragons' back line multiple times. Meanwhile, the Ephs defensive line were well-organized and rarely allowed the Red Dragons' offense any space on the pitch. Particularly impressive was starter Gregory Andreou (Fr.), who was playing in his first game for the Ephs at left back. A defensive rock, Andreou also managed to be an offensive threat on multiple occasions.
Towards the end of a largely uneventful second half, an impressive Sisco-Tolomeo broke the defensive deadlock between the two teams for a second time in the 88th minute. Malcolm Moutenot received the ball on the right wing and knocked it in to the top of the 6-yard box. Sisco-Tolomeo used the goalie's momentum against him with a deft tap to the far side of the goal. The Eph bench started cheering as the ball slowly bounced into net, clinching the game for the Ephs.
Head coach Erin Sullivan '96, fresh off his first game and win as the Ephs' coach, believed that the players' prior experience was a significant factor in the game's success: "I think we got a lot of experienced performances out of some guys that had to step out and emerge into a big role and we've been training for that." After a shortened NESCAC preseason schedule, Sullivan sees the experienced team leaders as vital towards any early success.
However, Sullivan does believe that the team still has some work to do: "Our combination play in the front half could be a little better. There were certainly some chances that we probably could have tucked away, but that's the nature of the game. You're always trying to create a positional advantage and then build on that." Nonetheless, Coach Sullivan was pleased with the exciting season opener.