NORTH ADAMS, MA -- The top-ranked Messiah Falcons handed the Williams women's soccer team its first loss of the year today. A goal from Mackenzie Clapper in the opening ten minutes was enough to power the Falcons (4-0-1) over the third-ranked Ephs (2-1-0, 1-0-0 NESCAC) despite a hard-fought game. The game, which was a home game for the Ephs, was played at MCLA. Coach Michelyne Pinard said after the game that not being able to play at Cole had no effect on today's results; she added: "They're a really good team, and we're finding our way, and I think our team's been incredibly resilient with dealing day-by-day with whatever's thrown at us. I don't think the field played a role. I think we're comfortable on this surface and are excited to play tomorrow."
Messiah pressured the Ephs from the opening minutes. Their first look at the net came off of a header from Leah Sipe, but first-year goalie Hannah Van Wetter was able to make the diving save just over five minutes in. The Falcons, however, would not let another opportunity slip away. In the 9th minute, Erin Hench barely beat a ball out of bounds by the right goal post and crossed it towards the middle of the net where Clapper put the ball past Van Wetter for the only goal of the game.
The Ephs responded to the goal with offensive pressure of their own. Alison Magruder fired a ball just over the net on the Ephs' first possession following the Falcon goal. Several minutes later, Lilly Wellenbach took the ball away from the Falcons in the defensive end and worked with other Ephs in a nice passing combination that resulted in a shot for Louisa Costa. With time on the clock winding down, Costa also had a beautiful pass from the right side to Hayley Cook in the box. Although Cooke was able to get a foot on the ball, Falcon goalie Autumn Reilly was perfect and allowed no goals in the half.
After the second half started with a shot from Hench that hit the crossbar, the Ephs quickly turned up the heat. Just five minutes in, the Ephs were able to force back-to-back free positions from Caitlin Clark. Wellenbach was able to get a shot off the second one, but Reilly came up with the save. When Messiah got a shot of their own just two-and-a-half minutes later from Elizabeth Phillips, Eph junior goalkeeper Laura Wann, who saw her first minutes of the year today, came up with her first save. Said Coach Pinard about having Wann back in the lineup, "Laura is fantastic, and we're excited to have her back."
With 25 minutes to play, the Ephs saw a great opportunity from Brett Eisenhart, who leads them in goals on the year. The senior beat her defender to have a look at the net from the right side of the box. Reilly barely made the save on the post and knocked the ball out of bounds. The Ephs, however, were unable to convert off of the Sachi Siegelman corner. The Ephs saw their final real opportunity with just over ten minutes to play. Siegelman fielded a beautiful ball to Costa, who narrowly kept the ball in bounds and was able to force a corner from the right side. Siegelman crossed the ball to the opposite post, and Wellenbach was able to get a head on the ball. The shot, however, went just wide.
Although the Ephs fought until the final moments, Messiah's speed stopped the Ephs from getting into a real offensive rhythm while pressuring them on the defensive end. Both Hench and Wulf had two shots on goal for the Falcons, and Reilly helped her team with six saves in the shutout.
For the Ephs, Nicole Stenquist led the fight with three shots. Wann was perfect in net with five saves while Van Wetter added a save of her own. Commenting on her plans for the keepers, Coach Pinard said, "We've been so lucky over the last five or six years to have a string of really, really good goalkeepers. My expectation is that they're going to split time until it doesn't make sense not to do so."
Coach Pinard commented on what the Ephs would take away from today after the game: "There's no doubt in my mind that we're a better team as a result of playing this game. I think we learned a lot about ourselves, and we learned a lot about what it takes to be and beat the best team in the country."
The Ephs look to bounce back tomorrow against Oneonta State. The game is at MCLA at 1:30.
Said Coach Pinard looking towards tomorrow, "[The players] need to take care of their bodies. [We're] really, really fit though. I think we're going to recover fine. The adjustment or change that I would like to make is that I would like us to take care of the ball a little bit better tomorrow. I think if we do that, then we can create more chances. And we need to win more 50-50 balls in the middle third."