WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- Despite a rather physical battle against an archrival, the Williams Ephs emerged quite triumphant on Saturday against the Wesleyan Cardinals by a score of 3-0, clinching a share of the 2018 Little Three title in the process.
With this result, Williams improves to 7-3-1/NESCAC 3-2-1, while Wesleyan drops to 3-8/NESCAC 2-5.
Coming into today, Wesleyan had lost five of its last six games, and the Cardinals played a notable sense of urgency from the moment the match began. This style worked quite well at the outset, as the Wesleyan marked their opponents closely on defense and forced the Ephs to earn every pass, while also playing a very efficient, connected style of attack that resulted in several penetrating runs deep into Williams territory early on.
However, Williams would soon solve this Wesleyan strategy, and began to punish the Cardinals. Forward Will Felitto ''22 took two shots in the 12th minute -- one off a cross from Bobby Fabricant '20 that hit the post and another that was headed right off a corner from Chris Fleischer '20. A 15th minute curl from senior Greg Andreou flew right of the goal, and that would be just the start. In a testament to the Ephs' depth, their two additional first-half chances of note came from three freshmen bench players. A 35th minute blocked shot from Nick Boardman came via strong interplay with Justin Adams, and the one goal of the first half was scored by Nathan Song '22 off a deflection from a shot by teammate Sean Dory '19. The first half saw a strong performance by the Ephs, but it was just the precursor to an extremely entertaining and results-filled second 90 minutes.
The two Little Three rivals exchanged blows rapidly at the beginning of the second half, with each squad recording two shots within the first 15 minutes, but Williams would be the only one to capitalize on their offensive prowess, doing so in the 59th minute when Chris Fleischer, instead of taking a corner kick, passed the ball out to defender Nick Ranieri '21, who was waiting beyond the box. Ranieri kicked the ball into the scrum, and off a deflection from a Cardinal defender, junior defender Liam Bardong slotted the ball past goalkeeper Chris Franklin to double Williams' lead. The Ephs would keep this same energy going for several more minutes, leading to an improbable 77th minute header goal from Boardman off a long cross from Song to put the match out of reach..
Williams head coach Erin Sullivan was upset with his team's play during stretches of the match, but seemed more upbeat about the result afterwards, saying, "I don't think it was a complete performance, but I was excited about some of the moments, and some things that we worked pretty hard for today."
Williams netminder Aaron Schein saved all three Wesleyan shots on goal, while Wesleyan goalie Chris Franklin was quite busy by comparison, saving six Eph shots.
Williams hosts NESCAC rival Bowdoin tomorrow at 2 PM, while Wesleyan travels to face Middlebury tomorrow at noon.