WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Just 22 seconds from facing Johns Hopkins in a shootout for the right to advance to the Elite 8 match-up, the Williams College soccer team saw its 2014 season come to a sudden conclusion when a member of the Blue Jays slipped a shot into the Williams goal.
The returning members of the Ephs have not forgotten that moment, but rather than languish in what might have been, have used it as fuel to ignite their engines through the long offseason into the preseason.
"Our goal is to start where we finished last year with regard to our play and our competitive level and build on that throughout preseason and the season," Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard said. "I think this team is very clear that regardless of how hard people have worked in the off season, we don't deserve anything, but rather have to earn everything. Our goal is to compete and play at the highest level possible and enjoy the process."
The Ephs return seven of their top scorers in addition to their starting goalkeeper from a team, which finished 14-4-2 and reached the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. The Ephs also played in the championship game of the NESCAC Tournament; marking the seventh straight season they made an appearance in that game.
Of course, the heights Williams will reach have to be set in the foundation of its senior class, and Pinard has a stellar senior class for 2015 including tri-captains Lilly Wellenbach, Hana Tomozawa and Hannah Van Wetter.
"The 2015 class has been a dynamic and inspired class since they day they arrived," Pinard said. "Their collective competitive energy is palpable and I would expect them to set the competitive standard for our team right away. Beyond that they are focused on creating a team that believes in each other and what we can accomplish on and off the field."
Last season, Williams outscored its opponents, 38-14, an important statistic to note if only because the Ephs have their top seven scorers coming back, and the goalkeeper who played the majority of time in net.
Magruder led Williams in goals with seven and points with 16. A quartet of youth was directly behind her as then first-years Kristi Kirshe and Audrey Thomas finished the year with six goals and two assists each. Another first-year, Katie Wardlaw, notched 12 points (five goals, two assists) while sophomore Crystal Lewin had nine points (four goals, one assist). Senior Tomozawa had two goals and two assists for six points while classmate Alex McInturf notched two goals and one assist.
"We have so many people who are going to contribute to our attack," Pinard said. "That's what will make us so dangerous. Everyone feels responsible for creating and scoring goals, not just one or two people. "
Junior Mai Mitsuyama also returns after earning ECAC-New England and All-NESCAC honors in 2014. Mitsuyama primarily played midfield for the Ephs last season, but she was also put on the backline and up front depending what the game situation dictated. She heads up a talented junior class that includes the aforementioned Lewin. Zoe Trutner, Lindsey Vandergrift. Abby Morss and Hanna Levin are also members of this class and are expected to contribute off the field, but injuries will deny them time on it.
The sophomore class — in addition to those already mentioned — includes Gabz Amos-Grossner, Maddie Swarr, Gabby Suarez and goalkeeper Tressa Palcheck. Naming a position for all of these players is difficult because Pinard likes to keep people moving around based on need, opponent, and improvement.
"There will be people playing in very different places so that we can use everyone's individual strengths to create a team that is better than we were last year," she said. "We have several returners coming back from injuries and sophomores who have gained a lot of confidence over the year so we have to see how things shake out, but yes, people will be playing different roles based on what the team needs. "
Senior Hannah VanWetter will lead the Ephs from the goal after posting a 0.38 goals against average last year and a .904 save percentage.
"Hannah has proven herself to be an exceptional goalkeeper and leader," Pinard said "We will lean on her to command the back third of the field. Overall our goal is to defend with 11.... everyone will be a part of our defensive scheme."
Pinard also expects contributions from the freshmen class, but only time will tell who and how much that affects the 2014 squad. The Ephs open up at home Saturday against Colby at 11 a.m