Ephs advance to NESCAC championship following PKs with Panthers

Ephs advance to NESCAC championship following PKs with Panthers

AMHERST, MA – The third-seeded Williams women's soccer team advanced to the finals of the NESCAC tournament today after bettering the second-seeded Middlebury Panthers in penalty kicks.  The Ephs (10-3-3, 7-2-1 NESCAC) finished five of their six penalty kicks – including the necessary sudden death shot – while the Panthers (11-3-2, 7-2-1 NESCAC) were able to convert only four. They were forced into the penalty kick shootout after the 110-minute game ended in a 0-0 tie.

The two teams met just under two weeks ago at Middlebury, where the Panthers were able to come away with the 1-0 victory that secured them second place in the regular season standings. 

The Ephs and Panthers were evenly matched. The game was very back-and-forth.  The Ephs had 16 shots on the day - including four in the first overtime period - while the Panthers had 14 looks at the net.  Keeper Laura Wann was incredibly clutch for the Ephs today: after seeing only three shots-on-goal in regulation (all in the first half), she came up with two saves in the final overtime. After two halves and two overtime periods, the Ephs found themselves in penalty kicks for the second game in a row.

Lilly Wellenbach finished first for the Ephs, but Scarlett Kirk responded by putting the ball past Wann for the Panthers. Caitlyn Clark, who returned from an injury today, shot next for the Ephs; Panther keeper Elizabeth Foody was able to make the save.  Lucy Wagner, however, missed the net high to keep the tally at 1-1. Hana Tomozawa and Hayley Cook both found the back of the net for the Ephs, as did Sarah Nobel and Moria Sloan for the Panthers.  With a tally of 4-4 after the first five shots, the penalty kicks became a sudden-death situation.

Junior Chloe Kuh kept the Ephs' season alive when she converted her shot.  Panther Devin Perkins hit the crossbar, and the Ephs found themselves with a spot in the NESCAC championship game.

After the game, Coach Michelyne Pinard explained what was different from the Ephs' last matchup with Middlebury: "I think we've made some adjustments that make us more effective all over the field.  Everyone's playing at a really high level.  [Today's game was] one of the best Division III soccer games you are going to see.  Both teams [were] playing well, competing hard.  To be honest, it's unfortunate that it had to come to PKs, but I'm really proud of our team for persevering."

With regards to the penalty kicks, she added, "I think we have complete confidence in each other.  I think we stepped into that situation – both individual shooters and our team collectively – and had confidence in our ability to finish this game.  I think we did a great job doing that. [We're] a resilient, competitive team, and I think [we] certainly showed that today.

The Ephs will take on top-seeded Amherst tomorrow at noon in the NESCAC championship. The game will take place at Amherst. Amherst defeated Wesleyan 3-0 in today's earlier semi-final. The Ephs will be looking to avenge a 3-0 loss earlier this year.

Said Coach Pinard about playing Amherst at Amherst for the league championship, "There's no other situation we would ask for.  This is a wonderful opportunity for our kids to get a chance to compete against Amherst again.  I think we're a different team than we were a month ago, and there's no doubt in my mind it's going to be a great game."