Ephs fight back to 2-2 tie with Wheaton

Lilly Wellenbach
Lilly Wellenbach

NORTON, MA -- The Williams College women's soccer team tied the Wheaton College Lyons (1-2-1) 2-2 today in a non-league matchup.  Despite falling behind early, the Ephs (1-0-1) fought back with a late first half goal from Alex McInturf and a game-tying goal from first-year Katie Wardlaw in the 63rd minute. Today's game was the first between the two teams since Williams fell to Wheaton 1-0 last year in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The game got off to an exciting start for Wheaton as the Lyons scored in just the third minute. Lauren Corigliano crossed the ball inside from the right flank, and Kaitlin Montoya headed it past Eph first-year goalie Tressa Palcheck for the early 1-0 lead.

The Lyons struck again just under fifteen minutes later when Kristina Braga finished in the top left corner of the net off of a pretty through ball from Gabriella Verde as the Lyons took the 2-0 lead.

The Ephs, however, continued to fight despite the early deficit and began to turn on their offensive game with just over fifteen minutes left in the opening frame. First-year Kristi Kirshe had two good looks at the net, but her first opportunity fell wide and Lyon goalie Taylor Wilson came up with the save.

The Lyons countered on the other end of the field with a pair of shots from Alex Leonardi in the 38th and 40th minutes. Palcheck, however, calmly collected both saves to keep her team in contention.

With the clock winding down, it looked like the Ephs might go to halftime down 2-0, but with nine seconds left in the half, they finally found the back of the net. Lilly Wellenbach lined up for a free kick from just inside midfield. She sailed the ball perfectly to fellow junior McInturf, who finished for her first goal of the year.

The Ephs returned from the break looking to capitalize on the momentum they gained going into halftime. They controlled the opening minutes of the second half offensively and eventually finished. Abby Morss crossed the ball inside from the left flank. Wardlaw was waiting in the center of the box and chipped the ball past Wilson in the 63rd minute. The goal is Wardlaw's second of the year following her game-winning goal in yesterday's contest with Colby.

The Ephs continued to push as they looked for the go-ahead goal.  Despite outshooting the Lyons by a total of 11-2 in the half, they were unable to put another opportunity past Wilson, and the game went into overtime.

The overtime periods proved more evenly matched.  Verde had several looks at the net for the Lyons that fell wide. Crystal Lewin had a good opportunity for the Ephs, but Wilson was able to come up with the save to keep the game tied in the first overtime period. At the start of the second period, Wilson turned away another attempt from Kirshe that was the Ephs' only of the final period.

Wilson totaled six saves today for Wheaton.  Palcheck had four for the Ephs in the first half, and junior goalie Hannah Van Wetter had one following her substitution at halftime. The Ephs outshot the Lyons by a total of 20 to 12 and had eight corner kicks to the Lyons' two.  McInturf and Wellenbach each received a yellow card for the Ephs, and Verde received one for the Lyons.

After the game, Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard commented on the difference in play between the two halves. About the first half, she said, "I think we were all caught off guard when we weren't ready to go. That's not something I think of when I think of our team. They certainly were ready, and we weren't [ready] on the field at the start. When they got those two goals, I was really proud of our fight and our ability to stay composed, stay resilient, and just keep working."

She went on to comment about what was different in the second half: "We took advantage of the space they were giving us. They don't give you much, and we had to use what they gave. I thought we did a good job of finding our forwards, and doing that quickly, and that was effective. Our kids want to win, want to fight, want to compete, so I sort of just let them go, and they responded."

Added Pinard about the weekend in general, "I think anytime you start your season with a double header – playing first a conference team and then one of the best teams in the country - it's going to be challenging. I think we realized the challenge; we wanted to attack and go after the challenge.  I thought our team did a great job the second forty-five minutes and the overtime, and I think that's going to be our standard from here on out – that's the level at which we're expecting ourselves to be."

The Ephs return to the field next Saturday at Trinity. Game time is set for 12:00 PM.