Williamstown, MA—The Williams College women's lacrosse team (13-4, 7-3 NESCAC) defeated Wheaton College (14-6, 7-0 NEWMAC) 9-6 in the second round of the NCAA Div. III Tournament when Natalie Gill scored two back-to-back goals to establish a 5-0 lead for the Ephs in the first fifteen minutes.
Today's contest is the second all-time meeting between the Lyons and Ephs. Williams won the first match up 16-5 during the 2001 ECAC Tournament Semifinals and went on to defeat Tufts University in the championship, 9-6.
The Williams Ephs came out strong at the opening of the game and dominated play to capture a 6-0 lead at the end of the first half. The Ephs were able to successfully work the ball around on their attacking end and prevent the Wheaton Lyons from getting on the board in their defensive end. Alyssa Amos got the Ephs on the board less than twenty seconds into the game after Nancy Palmer won the first draw control of the contest for Williams.
Several turnovers on both ends prevented both teams from scoring for nearly nine minutes until Rebecca Bell found the net off a pass from Anne Rehfuss at the 20:56 mark. Less than a minute later Palmer scooped a loose ball off the ground and into the net to put the Ephs up by three less than ten minutes into the contest.
Five minutes later, Natalie Gill fired in a pair of goals just thirty seconds apart to put the Ephs up 5-0 with just under fifteen minutes remaining in the half. Following a save by Wheaton Goalie Katy Ananian, Bridget Malicki recovered the ball on a failed clear, ran it in, and fired in a shot to put the Ephs up by six with a minute remaining. The Ephs regained possession for the remainder of the half as the clock ran out.
Williams head coach Chris Mason remarked, "We came out hard and played very well in the beginning. Our defense played very well in the first half and our attack had some good opportunities on goal." Wheaton head coach Emily Kiablick said, "our attack intimidated in the first half. I thought we gave them four earned goals, and two of them were our mistake." She commended her defense for strong play in the first half that would continue into the second half.
The Lyons came out strong in the second half in which they would lead 6-2 in goals scored. They played with determination to come back at the Ephs and earned the first draw control of the half. However, strong Williams defense continued to thwart Wheaton's attacking efforts as the Ephs regained possession on a forced turnover in the defense and transitioned it up to their attacking end. Amos received a wide open feed from Maeve Mulholland and fired in the first goal of the half for the Ephs just over four minutes into play.
Wheaton would proceed to answer back with three consecutive goals beginning when Hayley Bright streaked down the center of the field, beating several Williams defenders, and fired in a goal to put the Lyons on the board just over a minute later. After passing the ball around their attacking end, the Leila Mills found the net once more for the Lyons. The Wheaton attack then caught the Ephs defense down a man when Mills split her defender and dumped a pass off to Hannah Gasperoni, who converted the shot to bring the game within four goals, the score now 7-3.
The Ephs were able to capitalize on a man up situation when Amos cut to the middle to receive a feed from Malicki at the top of the circle and scored an eight goal for the Ephs on a bounce shot. The Lyons battled back on their attacking end, earning a pair of free position shots, the first of which was saved by Williams goalie Ali Piltch. However, Jenna Tewksbury was able to convert the second free position shot with a bounce shot that hit top corner of the goal to bring the contest within four goals with 6:51 remaining.
Williams would score once more in the contest with a goal from Jenna Chodos. However the Lyons would continue to fight back and net two additional goals from Tewksbury and Mills. Key saves by Piltch on a free position shots prevented the Lyons from closing the gap further. Following the final goal of the game by Mills with just 48 seconds remaining, the Ephs regained possession and held onto the ball until the clock ran out with a 9-6 victory for Williams.
Amos led the Ephs with three goals and Gill followed with two while Malicki had two assists for the game. Mills and Tewksbury led Wheaton's scoring with two goals each.
The Lyons came into today's came off a 14-3 win against Emmanuel College in the first round of NCAA tournament play. Coach Kiablick commented that her team had never played Williams during her tenure, but remarked, "looking at their score we knew they were a strong team and we really wanted that challenge coming out of Wednesday's game. That all proved to be true—they are a very strong team, and they really pushed us to play one of our toughest games of the season, so it was a great way to end." Reflecting on her team's play, she attributed their second half success to a strong showing by the attack as a way to give back to the team's defenders, who she felt had come out stronger in the first half. Williams head coach Chris Mason, too, commented that the Lyons "turned it on" in the second half and added, "their goal keeper played very well and made it tough for us."
Williams senior tri-captain and goalie Ali Piltch, whom Mason lauded for her strong play in today's game, remarked, "It's already two weeks longer than I've ever played in my career, so I think in general we're just all excited to be here. I think we try to treat every game and every team the same, and I'm really lucky to have such a good defense in front of me that I didn't have to see too many shots."
Piltch recorded nine saves on the game for Williams while Ananian had eleven for Wheaton.
Reflecting on today's game Mason said, "I think the team was thrilled to finish top four in the NESCAC and then they were just thrilled to make NCAAs. Their goal was to make NESCACs and they did that and then they bettered that by then bettered that by making the NCAA tournament."
Following today's victory, Williams will advance on to the next round of NCAA play next Saturday, May 17th.