GENEVA, N.Y. -- Williams senior Brett Eisenhart didn't practice all week, did not warm-up on Saturday and wasn't even on the field for the first 77 minutes of the Ephs' NCAA third round match-up with No. 5 Emory University.
But Eisenhart, battling a serious foot injury, was on the field at the end, scoring the only goal of the contest with just 3:23 remaining in the second overtime to push Williams (13-4-3) into an improbable NCAA Div. III Tournament quarterfinal rematch with William Smith.
"I just think getting this win is such a testament to their will, their sense of team and what they're willing to do for each other in order to come out on top," Williams head coach Michelyne Pinard said. "I just can't say enough about this team. They have been dealt a tough hand and I think they've handled it better than I could have ever imagined. I'm so proud of them for being so resilient and tough."
The Ephs have resembled a M*A*S*H unit all season, losing their home field to Hurricane Irene and losing five starters to injury. Even on Saturday Williams was forced to play without senior tri-captain Sachi Siegelman for the final 63 minutes of the contest and no less than seven first-years played key roles in the win.
"We've faced so many challenges this year," Eisenhart said. "We've run into some pretty bad luck, but we've kept going with the same goal in mind. We couldn't do it without each other, we've all come together so well, it's probably the closest team I've been on in my four years here."
Emory dominated the play at times, forcing Williams junior keeper Laura Wann into making 11 saves and finishing with a 27-9 edge in shots. None was bigger than with 1:30 left in the first overtime, when Emory freshman Emily Feldman ran onto a through ball near the top of the box and appeared to have a clear path to the goal. But an aggressive Wann dashed out to block the shot with some help from junior back Chelsea Davies -- another hero who blocked, altered or cleared away several dangerous Eagles' opportunities on the day.
The end came suddenly and for those old enough may have evoked memories of Kirk Gibson or even Walt Frazier. Eisenhart was only going to be allowed to play 20-30 minutes because of her injury, and only if the game was tied or the Ephs trailed. And only if she could stand the pain.
The Ephs, who did not have a shot in the first extra 10-minute session, produced back-to-back corner kicks thanks in part to some fine foot work from Hayley Cook. Cook's second corner was a low line drive that found Eisenhart at about the six on the far left post. Somehow the Ephs' all-time leading scorer put just enough on the header to forward the ball toward the goal, at which point Eph first-year Hana Tomozawa and an Eagle back both attempted to re-direct the ball. It appeared the ball richocheted off the defender, past Emory keeper Kaele Leonard and into the lower corner of the net.
"I jumped up and put a head on it," Eisenhart said. "I headed it and fell down, I saw Hana and a defender go for the ball and as I was lying on the ground I saw it go in and was like, 'yes.' -- I was so surprised."
"We knew we could only play her 20-25 minutes each day," Pinard said, "and we believed using her when she could be the most dangerous was the best strategy. It worked today. That's what Brett does best, get to a ball in the 18. We knew she'd be ready to go and do anything for this team."
Williams was outshot in each session except the final OT. Emory held an 11-3 lead over the first 45 minutes, a 10-3 edge in the final 45 minutes of regulation and a 5-0 advantage in the first 10-minute overtime. It took a team effort to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard, starting with Wann and working out to Davies, Kristine Nakada, Lilly Wellenbach, Alex McInturf, Siegelman and even Louisa Costa, who played in the back in the second half and overtime.
Just as critical was the play of midfielders Nicole Stenquist, Caitlyn Clark and Carla Nicasio, who not only played a large role defensively but were catalysts in ceating offensive surges and counterattacks.
With 16 minutes left in regulation, the Ephs nearly won it when Clark slotted a ball through the box to Wellenbach, who re-directed it toward the lower left-hand corner of the net. A diving Leonard pushed the ball out of harms way.
Emory nearly won the game with 45 seconds to go in regulation when a ball was cleared but played back into the box to junior Merrill Bachouros, one of Emory's top scorers. She was unable to ground the ball, and was forced to kind of chop at the ball instead, sending it just wide.
Bachouros had another opportunity in the second overtime, but her shot was blocked by Wann.
"Every single person contributed to this win," Pinard said. "To hold a team like Emory scoreless -- our backs and Laura did a tremendous job of making their dangerous players a little less dangerous."
Williams will face the host Herons (19-0-1), who defeated Middlebury 2-1 in the earlier game Saturday, Sunday at 1 p.m for the right to advance to the final four in San Antonio, Texas. Last year, William Smith defeated the Ephs, 1-0, in the same round.