AMHERST, MA -- With less than a minute to go in the match, Aaron Schein saved a dramatic penalty kick to keep the Williams Ephs unbeaten, as they outlasted archrival Amherst 2-1.
With this result, Williams remains undefeated at 3-0-1/NESCAC 2-0-1, while Amherst drops to 2-2/NESCAC 1-2.
Both squads came out firing today, making for a highly entertaining first 45. The ten outfield players for each team sprinted up and down the pitch, playing at a high overall level of pace and finding open space wherever they could.
Star Eph forward Demian Gass '20 ripped two shots within the first 15 minutes of the match, to no avail, but those chances were the result of constant workmanlike play from the Eph backline and midfield.
However, while Williams was able to create several legitimate opportunities, they were tested by their archrivals, especially in the first half. Using the high-risk, high-reward "flip throw" on each and every throw-in, Amherst put the ball in highly advantageous positions near the net numerous times. Unfortunately, despite myriad opportunities in this manner, the Mammoths were unable to convert any of those chances.
Junior forward Jimmy McMillian sprinted past the Eph defense on multiple occasions, and sophomore forward Sebastian Derby happened upon the ball in Williams territory at several pivotal moments but failed to put the Mammoths on the scoreboard thanks to heads-up play from Eph defenders like Scatt MacDonald '19 and Liam Bardong '20. Both teams entered the 15-minute halftime hoping that the law of averages would soon convert chances into goals, and they would not be disappointed.
Both teams picked up in the second half right where they left off in the first half. In the 51st minute, Derby got the ball at the top of the box with only Schein to beat, but flipped it just right of the goal, depriving the Mammoths of the first score of the match, and from there, the momentum started to shift towards the purple and yellow Ephs.
Williams blocked four Mammoth shots in the next ten minutes and ratcheted up its defensive pressure, turning it into offensive firepower. This gradual buildup culminated in the 58th minute, when midfielder Greg Andreou '19 got the ball off a free kick and punched it home to put the Ephs on top.
The Williams lead was doubled 15 minutes later when Chris Fleischer attempted a cross that instead snuck past Mammoth goalie Michael Stone and into the net, and all of a sudden, Williams led by two with time quickly running out.
Amherst would not go quietly though. In the 86th minute, junior midfielder Dane Lind got to a ball just outside of the box, did a step-over move, and crossed it to Derby, who was positioned right in front of the net. He poked it home to halve the lead, and all of a sudden, the match was no longer a foregone conclusion. A minute later, Amherst senior defender Sean Fitzgerald headed a ball towards the goal that was only just saved by Schein, and the Mammoths started to play most aggressive, even bringing Stone into the outfield as a deep-lying failsafe. This approach paid off when an Eph committed a foul in the box in the 89th minute, setting the stage for a climactic penalty kick from junior defender Cutler Coleman. He struck the ball to the right, but unfortunately for Amherst, Schein guessed correctly, grabbing it and effectively sealing a triumphant Williams victory.
Twice this young season Schein has denied a penalty kick.
Both Amherst's Michael Stone and Eph goalie Aaron Schein recorded six saves on the day.
After the match, a jubilant Eph head coach Erin Sullivan praised his squad's tenacious effort, saying, "We carved out a gritty road win today led by our seniors. I'm proud of our entire team for the way they prepared for this game, competed throughout, and stuck together through some rough patches at the end. These are the types of games players live for and so many players rose to the occasion today, particularly late in the match."
Williams travels to face Bates tomorrow at 3 PM, while Amherst hosts Gordon next Tuesday at 4:30 PM.