WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — It has been three years since the Ephs beat the Lyons of Wheaton College in 2011. Since then, the Lyons have handed the Ephs a 1-0 NCAA tournament second round loss in 2012, before playing to a 2-2 draw last year on the opening weekend. And for much of the game at Cole Field on Sunday afternoon, it looked like a win might once again elude the Ephs, after an early goal from both teams saw the scoreline stay at 1-1 for more than 70 minutes of the affair. Then, with just over 10 minutes left, Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard subbed on sophomore strikers Audrey Thomas and Kristi Kirshe along with junior midfield powerhouse Mai Mitsuyama to see if they could prove to be the difference. And she was right.
Just before the 80th minute, moments after being subbed on, Audrey Thomas raced down the right wing to swing a ball into the box that fellow sophomore Gabby Suarez was able to toe poke toward Kirshe, who needed only one touch to smash the Ephs into the lead.
A mere four minutes later, Kirshe doubled her tally, as Thomas once again showed her great industry, centering the ball to Kirshe from the right side of the box. Kirshe struck it first time just as before, but Lyons junior keeper Taylor Wilson was able to get a leg out to deflect her shot seemingly away from the back of the net. However, the tenacious Kirshe followed up her own shot, and made short work of the rebound, tapping the ball into the back of an empty net to wrap up the 3-1 win for the Ephs.
After the match Kirshe commented on her game-winning goals: "We are playing out there like it's November. So we went out there with ten minutes left, and we knew we needed a goal. We were just opportunistic."
Coach Pinard also commented on Kirshe's pair of goals after the match: "I told them to attack with speed. Anytime they slow down to try and create something, it gives the other team to tuck in and get behind the ball. When our forwards attack with pace, it's really hard to stop them."
The game started off at an incredibly fast clip, with the Lyons netting the first goal of the game in just over 45 seconds on their very first foray forward. Lyons senior captain Gabriella Verde intercepted a loose pass between the Ephs' defense and midfield, before laying the ball off to sophomore Kaitlin Montoya, who sent a ball toward the speedy senior Lauren Corigliano flying down the left wing. Corigliano raced to the touchline, where she sent a cross to the center of the box to Montoya, who flicked the ball toward the back post where Verde was waiting to slot the ball into the back of the net past Eph senior keeper Hannah Van Wetter.
In spite of the early goal by the Lyons, the Ephs did not show any sign of being vulnerable to a second Lyons goal, as they locked down defensively and began to look for a goal of their own.
They foreshadowed their equalizer in the sixth minute off a counterattack led by Thomas, who neatly tapped a pass from the left side of the box to Mitsuyama at the top, who slid a ball into the knifing Kirshe, who rattled Wilson's left post before Wilson eventually smothered the ball in the middle of the scrum.
It was less than a minute later when the Ephs notched their equalizer through Thomas' second goal of the season. An incredible lofted through ball from the right foot of Maddie Swarr toward the right corner of the Lyons' penalty area allowed the fleet-of-foot Thomas to beat her defender to the ball. Wilson came out to meet her, but Thomas pulled off a truly wonderful chip over Wilson's head into the left panel of the goal from ten yards out.
The Ephs had their first good look at taking the lead in the 31st minute, when sophomore Katie Wardlaw lined up a freekick from just over twenty yards out, after a hard tackle by Lyons freshman Aunyes Hermantin on an Eph attacker. Wardlaw bent the ball toward the left corner of the goal, but Wilson was able to get over easily enough to make the save.
The Lyons had a chance of their own to retake the lead seven minutes later when freshman Jessie Mink found some space down the left wing to send an out-swinging cross toward fellow freshman Caren McCarthy, but McCarthy couldn't take advantage of the free header, sending the ball well over Van Wetter's crossbar.
The game slowed down significantly after halftime, with neither team really looking like they would find an equalizer.
The first decent opportunity fell to Lyons junior Julia Cipriano in the 60th minute, when she struck a long-distance effort toward the Ephs' goal that looked as if it might have been dipping just enough to slip in under the bar, but Van Wetter took no chances by tipping it safely over the bar and out of danger.
There was very little either way until Kirshe, Thomas, and Mitsuyama were subbed on in the 80th minute, making an instant impact in the game, with all three contributing and Kirshe bagging her second and third goals of the season.
With the win, the Ephs improve to 2-0 and hand the Lyons their first loss of the season (3-1).
After the match, Coach Pinard noted how well her team responded after conceding a first-minute goal: "Wheaton certainly caught us on our heels and finished on the opportunity they created, but we have a lot of faith in our ability to finish, and as soon as we evened it up 1-1, it settled us down and we played well. That was the difference that I saw on the field. We're working really hard trying to defend with eleven, and I think we did a very good job of that. And we had to do that. The better the team, the better you have to defend, and we did a good job giving their forwards very little time on the ball today."
The Lyons continue their season with another non-conference game, visiting Eastern Nazarene on Thursday with a 7 PM EDT kickoff time. The Ephs resume their string of home games to open up the 2014 season next weekend on Saturday against conference rivals Trinity College. The game is set to kickoff at 12 PM EDT.