Ephs survive Hamilton in PKs

Ephs survive Hamilton in PKs

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The third-seeded Williams College Ephs advanced past the sixth-seeded Hamilton Continentals today in a penalty kick shootout in the NESCAC quarterfinals.  Regulation ended in a 1-1 tie after Halle Becker scored for Hamilton in the first half, and Lilly Wellenbach had the Ephs' only goal of the game in the second.

The Ephs (10-3-2, 7-2-1 NESCAC) and Continentals (6-7-2, 4-5-1 NESCAC) met earlier this year in the regular season.  The Ephs won their previous meeting 4-0.

The Continentals were the first on the board just under ten minutes into the game.  After they carried up field in front of the Ephs' second line of defenders, Emi Birch received the ball towards the center of the field.  She crossed it to Becker on the right side, who struck the ball from just inside 25 yards over keeper Laura Wann's head to give Hamilton the early 1-0 lead.

After Hamilton controlled the beginning of play, the Ephs saw some good opportunities in the latter part of the half. With ten minutes to play, Sachi Siegelman beat her defender and served the ball ahead to Brett Eisenhart, who beat hers as well. Goalie Liza Gergenti was there to make the save.  With time winding down, Siegelman struck another ball into the box, where Wellenbach got a header on the ball. Gergenti was able to make that save as well to keep her team up 1-0 going into the break. 

Gergenti had a stellar performance for the Continentals today.  From diving saves to aggressive play off the line, she kept her team in the game for the full 110 minutes.

After the teams held the ball pretty evenly on offense in the first half, the second half was a different story. The Ephs came out aggressive and looking for a goal.  They finally found one just under 20 minutes in when Hayley Cook passed ahead to Wellenbach.  Dribbling the ball up the right side of the field, Wellenbach beat several defenders and carried in close.  She made a quick move to fake Gergenti and scored in the bottom left corner.  Just three minutes later, it looked like she might put the Ephs up one when she fired alone in the box, but the shot fell wide.

Said Coach Michelyne Pinard about Wellenbach's ability to step up, "Lilly's such a dynamic, competitive athlete that you put her in any competitive situation, she's going to thrive.  I think she did that today." 

The Continentals saw their best opportunity come off of a free kick with ten minutes to play.  Lauren Brady struck the ball perfectly into the box, but Wann was able to beat the Continental attackers to the ball.

With a score of 1-1, the Ephs and Continentals found themselves going into two ten-minute overtime periods.  The first overtime did not see any great opportunities for either team.  In the second, it looked like the Ephs might put the game away twice: once when Wellenbach dribbled past her defender and fired the ball just over the net with five to play, and the other when Brett Eisenhart had a low shot with a minute left that Gergenti was just barely able to save.

With no one netting a goal in either extra time period, the two teams lined up for penalty kicks. The first shots are a best-of-five system.  After five, the two teams were tied at 4-4, so the shootout continued in a sudden-death fashion. Williams shot first. 

In the PK shootout Williams scorers were Wellenbach, Stenquist, Siegelman, Cook, Nicasio and scorers for Hamilton were Skinner, Lasker, Becker.

Not converting PKs: McInturf for Williams and Grund and DiCosmo for Hamilton.

Eph goalie Laura Wann denied two Hamilton shots, while Hamilton's Gergenti stopped one Eph shot.

The decisive Eph PK was netted by sophomore Carla Nicasio and when Wann stopped DiCosmo the Ephs team mobbed her to the right of the right post where she lay holding the ball.

Said Coach Pinard about her keeper's performance today, "[Laura]'s such a steady presence for us.  It wasn't a surprise to me that she came up with two saves in the shootout. She is everything any coach could want from a goalkeeper.  She is strong. She is solid.  She's a leader.  I just couldn't be prouder of her."

After the game, Coach Pinard spoke about what she thinks was the key to the Ephs' ability to fight until the end: "I think first and foremost we're fit, and I think all the work we've done through the whole season paid off,  certainly towards the end there.  Our focus today was just competing, competing, competing, and I think we did that.  I thought we did that for not only the 90 minutes of regulation but also the two overtimes.  I just couldn't be prouder of them."

The Ephs move on to play in the NESCAC semi-finals.  Because other games are still being played around the league, their opponent has yet to be determined.  Regardless, the game will take place next Saturday. 

Looking ahead to next weekend, Pinard added, "I don't think we actually care who we play from here on out.  We just know we need to bring our grittiest, our toughest, most competitive play for 90 minutes.  I think if we do that, we can beat anyone in the country."

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