AMHERST, MA — All bark but no bite was the story of the day for the Williams front line, as they were shutout for the first time this season, as the Lord Jeffs of Amherst College put in a strong effort early to punish the Ephs' slow start and hand the Ephs their first loss of the season (4-1, NESCAC 2-1). With the win, the Jeffs (4-1, NESCAC 2-1) stretch their unbeaten streak against the Ephs to two years, last losing in 2012.
After playing 110 minutes last year without a single ball splashing into the back of either side's nets, it took the Jeffs less than three minutes to open the scoring on one of their first forays forward in the game. Senior Mel Stier raced down the right flank toward the touchline but pulled off a deft cut-back just inside the eighteen-yard box to fool her defender, creating plenty of space so that she could roll a ball toward the back-post, right into the path of freshman Hannah Guzzi, who did just enough to get her toe to the ball and poke it into the back of the net, past Eph senior keeper Hannah Van Wetter's outstretched arms.
It took the Ephs the better part of a quarter of an hour to really get into the game, but as the first half progressed, they looked the more likely of the two teams to create the next goal.
The Ephs' first good look of the game came in the 25th minute, as sophomore Kristi Kirshe charged toward the left side of the Jeff defense all the way to the touchline to send a cross in that deflected out to Eph senior Hana Tomozawa, but she dragged her shot just wide of the left post.
In spite of the mounting pressure in front of the Jeff goalmouth, the Jeffs hit the Ephs on a counter against the run of play to stretch their lead to two goals. Stier once again was the creator as she dashed down the right wing to send another ball into the box, this time ricocheting around the six-yard box, before kindly falling to sophomore Emily Hester outside the penalty area for her to strike first-time with her left foot, curling away from Van Wetter and notching into the right panel of the goal.
Just seven minutes later, the Ephs looked like they might cut their deficit to just one before halftime, as freshman Danielle Sim chipped a ball over the Jeff back line looking for the knifing run of freshman Hanna Kaeser. Kaeser ran onto the ball and only had Jeff junior keeper Holly Burwick to beat, but she skied her shot well over the bar, allowing the Jeffs to see their two-goal lead into halftime.
The Ephs got the second half underway, still looking for their first goal of the game, and Kirshe just about had it for them inside of three minutes after the restart. She received a great incisive pass to cut through the Jeff back line and managed to poke the ball around the on-rushing Burwick, but the ball got away from her, as she was unable to steer her shot into the open net.
On the hour mark, the Ephs had another chance to get on the board, as Kirshe slides a pass to sophomore Audrey Thomas on the right touch line, who then sent the ball back to Kirshe near the top of the box, whose in-swinging cross somehow managed to evade the outstretched leg of Mitsuyama at the back post, who just needed a touch on the ball to get the Ephs on the scoreboard.
With the Jeffs content on letting the Ephs have possession, their back line continued to absorb a lot of pressure as time dwindled down.
The Ephs final chance to make the last several minutes interesting came in the 83rd minute, initiated by the ever-industrious junior midfielder Mai Mitsuyama. Mitsuyama centered a ball from the right side to the top of the Jeff penalty area to Kirshe, who carved out a through ball to match the run of Thomas, who collected the ball and attempted a chip over Burwick, but Burwick closed down the space quickly enough to redirect the ball away from the back of her net and out of danger.
The Jeffs did well to see out the final seven minutes and clinch their fourth shutout of the season.
After the game, Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard commented on her team's first loss of the season: "It took us about 10-15 minutes to get a rhythm, and unfortunately they punished us for that. Once we got a rhythm and we figured out how to keep the ball, we started to get in behind and create some chances. It felt like we had a ton of really good, quality opportunities, but that's the game. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how many chances you have or how many shots, you have to finish. They did, and we didn't."
Both the Jeffs and the Ephs play again this weekend on Sunday: the Jeffs at 2 PM EDT at home against Lasell, while the Ephs are away again, this time against Castleton with kickoff set for 12 PM EDT.