AMHERST, MA – The Williams College men's soccer team advanced to the NESCAC Championship tilt to be played tomorrow on the campus of Amherst College by netting two second half goals and keeping Hamilton off the scoreboard. With the 2-0 win the Ephs advance to play Colby College Sunday at noon for the NESCAC title and to see which team will secure the NESCAC's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The Ephs now stand at 10-5-2 on the season, while Hamilton will finish with a 9-7-1 record.
While there were no goals in the first half, it was nevertheless an entertaining 45 minutes. Williams recorded two shots on goal within the first two minutes of the match, and a seventh-minute shot from Hamilton's Luke Eckels volley off of a corner kick hit the crossbar, inches away from a score. Both teams played quality soccer, but especially Williams, whose back-line defenders gave up just two other shots in the first half, neither of which was on goal, and ably contested a staggering seven first-half corner kicks from the Continentals.
Despite a scoreless first half and Hamilton's overall fine form, the Ephs were primed to strike at any moment.
The second half began similarly to the first half, with attacking pressure from Williams leading to several legitimate chances to score, as well as a few more breakthrough opportunities from Hamilton. However, the tenor of the match would soon drastically change in the 76th minute, when Williams midfielder Chris Fleischer '20 hit a cross into striker Demian Gass '20, who headed the ball into the lower right corner past Hamilton netminder Thomas Benson to put the Ephs up 1-0.
Clearly not satisfied with just a one-score lead, Williams grabbed an insurance goal in the 82nd minute via a breakaway strike from last week's hero Eric Hirsch '19 to seal the victory. Hirsch stole the ball from a Hamilton defender 30 yards out from the goal and advanced on Benson in a one-on-one opportunity. As Benson roared off the goal line towards Hirsch, Hirsch chipped the ball over Benson into the net to give the Ephs a 2-0 lead.
Williams netminder Aaron Schein was the beneficiary of tremendous defense by the Eph backline and was only called on to make but one save in recording a clean sheet, while Hamilton goalie Thomas Benson, despite allowing two late goals, was splendid as well, saving seven Williams shots.
In the conference championship on Sunday at noon, Williams will take on the red-hot eighth-seeded Colby Mules, who are fresh off defeats of higher-seeded Tufts and Amherst teams in consecutive rounds. In the regular season contest versus Colby played on the Ephs' Cole Field back on September 15 the two teams played 110 scoreless minutes.
"Solid result today against a very tough Hamilton side," commented Eph head coach Erin Sullivan after the game. "We need to turn the page quickly and redouble our efforts. Colby is in great form and will be a formidable test."
The location of Sunday's championship match will be determined tomorrow morning. If Hitchcock Field, the grass field behind the Amherst gym and rink on Route 116 is unplayable the game will be played at Gooding Field on Route 9.