WILLIAMSTOWN, MA. – Top-seeded Williams defeated third-seeded Middlebury, 3-2, in a highly-contested NESCAC Championship at Cole Field in Williamstown this afternoon. The win marks the Ephs’ third consecutive conference championship, as the Williams women’s soccer program remains the only team in conference history to have won consecutive titles.
Middlebury falls to 11-3-2, while Williams continues their undefeated season at 17-0-0. The Ephs, currently ranked second in the latest NSCAA rankings, receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament with this afternoon’s victory.
“It’s hard not to be overwhelmed with emotion right now in seeing all their hard work come to fruition,” said Williams’ head coach Michelyne Pinard. “The senior class was spectacular with their energy and poise both on and off the field, and how they keep us together as a team. To see them walk off the field as NESCAC champs means the world to me.”
The two squads faced off in the final game of their regular season on October 30, 2009 with Williams taking the contest by a 1-0 margin. Ephs senior Sarah Walmsley tallied a late-goal in the 87th- minute to win a game that the Panthers largely dominated.
In today’s championship game, Williams and Middlebury switched momentum often with the Ephs controlling much of the first third and last third of the game. The Panthers would take the momentum in the middle of the game, when they scored two goals to tie and take the lead for just over fifteen minutes in the second half.
Statistically, Middlebury and Williams were on par, taking 11 and 12 shots respectively. The Panthers, ranked 19th in the latest NSCAA rankings, held the Ephs to their lowest total of shots taken on the season.
Williams sophomore Bret Eisenhart tallied two goals this afternoon, putting her squad up first in the 25th- minute of play. Eisenhart and teammate Brianna Wolfson found themselves in a 2-on-1 match up against a lone Middlebury defender. Wolfson drew the defender in, and then flicked the ball to an open Eisenhart who ripped a fast-paced shot to the middle of the net for the 1-0 lead.
Middlebury responded nine minutes later with one of their first offensive opportunities of the game. The Panther’s Rachel Madding corralled a corner kick, and attempted to head the ball to net. Teammate Anne Ford intercepted the ball with another header, and directed it towards goal to knot the game, 1-1. The Panthers proceeded to silence the home crowd by taking the lead at 55:09. Annie Rowell took advantage of a fallen Ephs defender, and was able to lace a slow roller to the back left corner for the 2-1 advantage.
“I knew going into this game that it was going to be tough,” said Pinard. “These are four of the best teams in the country and you can’t be perfect and you’re going to give up goals. We were resilient enough to move past it today.”
Williams played from behind for fifteen minutes before taking the control of the game once again. At 71:24, Walmsley scored off a fast-break sequence to even the game at two goals apiece. Nicole Stenquist had just entered the game twenty seconds ago, and had an instant impact. Collecting a pass from Annelise Snyder near mid-field, Stenquist dribbled towards the Panther’s net and quickly spotted an undefended Walmsley on her left. Stenquist played a solid pass to her teammate, who proceeded to take an open shot for the goal.
“I was so happy for Nicole in that moment,” commented Pinard. “I feel as if her work on the field can go unnoticed in the statistics category, but she creates opportunities. She took one touch, and found Walmsley running, and of course Walmsley is a great finisher.”
Upon chants from the Michelyne Men on the sidelines cheering, “Not in our house!”, momentum began to shift back towards the Ephs as they took control of Cole Field as they have done so many times this season. The home team regained the lead just eight minutes later off another sequence between Eisenhart and Wolfson at the 79:03 mark.
Wolfson played a cross from the left side towards a crowd of players in front of the net. The ball began to trail past the far post, and Eisenhart read its path and retreated towards the ball. She kicked the ball back towards the left post for what would become the game-winning goal.
“This game says a lot about how much these ladies want to win,” continued Pinard. “It happens from hard work. We train hard against some of the best players in the country every day at practice, and they love to put it out there every single day.”