CLINTON, NY — Home-field advantage was what the Ephs had on their minds today, as they made the trek to Love Field to face off against the Continentals of Hamilton College on Tuesday afternoon. They knew that if they emerged with any sort of result, draw or win, they would be playing on the familiar grass of Cole Field throughout the NESCAC tournament. With a perfect home record this season, including only conceding four goals at home all season, it's understandable how formidable Cole Field is to play on for any team, NESCAC or otherwise.
In a first half and game largely dominated by Williams, the Ephs put in another outstanding shift defensively as they completely shut down the Continentals offense, not allowing a single shot on-goal in the first half.
The Ephs' best chance of the half, however, came in the dying minutes, as Eph junior center back Zoe Trutner cut out a pass between a pair of Continental attackers to then loft a beautiful ball all the way to the other side of the field, over the Continental back line, to match the perfectly timed run of freshman Dani Sim, who was all by herself with only Continental freshman keeper Rachel Cooley left to beat. Sim drove into the box and pulled up at fifteen yards, launching a right-footed curling effort that looked destined for the back of the net, but it somehow caromed off the right post and away from danger.
Sim rattling the woodwork seemed to wake up the Ephs, however, as Eph sophomore Audrey Thomas came out in the second half and assaulted the Continental back line and Cooley's goal with incisive runs and cool finishes.
Just over two minutes into the second half, Thomas worked her way back onto the scoresheet as she fired home her 11th goal of the season and allowed the Eph faithful to exhale, as all were waiting on a goal to ensure them of home-field advantage. Senior Alison Magruder timed her step up perfectly, as she intercepted a pass that a Continental forward was about to run onto, and, similar to Trutner's pass to Sim before the halftime whistle, she sent a ball all the way to the other side of the field, over the Continental back line, looking for the pacy Thomas. Thomas did well to outrun her defenders, control the ball, round Cooley, and tap the ball into the back of an empty net, showing why she is the leading scorer in the NESCAC.
Thomas would not be satisfied with just the one goal however, as two minutes later she tallied her second of the game, again one-on-one with Cooley. This time the play started all the way at the back, as Eph senior keeper Hannah Van Wetter played a ball to fellow senior Lilly Wellenbach, who played a ball to the midfield to junior Crystal Lewin on the right side, who knocked a beautiful one-touch pass all the way up the field to find the knifing run of Thomas. From there it was all about Thomas' pace, as she once again left her defenders behind, and, with only Cooley to beat, calmly slotted the ball under Cooley's left arm and across the goal line.
Thomas' eleventh and twelfth goals of the season see her top the NESCAC scorers leaderboard, now two goals ahead of her striking partner's still-formidable tally of 10 goals.
Unfortunately for the Continentals, the damage had been done, and the Ephs showed why they have conceded the fewest goals in the NESCAC this entire season. However, the Continentals earned themselves several good looks in the final fifteen minutes of the game to cut their deficit in half.
Their first good chance came in the 76th minute, as freshman Katja Dunlap worked a ball out to fellow freshman Katie Kreider whose nifty footwork won the Continentals a free kick mere inches outside of the Eph penalty area on the left side near the touchline. Junior Becca Rees took the ensuing free kick, sending a dangerous cross right onto the six-yard box, where an Eph defender and Continental junior Hannah Withiam went shoulder-to-shoulder trying to win the ball. Withiam appeared for a moment to have won the battle but she hit far too under the ball, as she could then do nothing but watch her shot sail over the bar.
The Continentals refused to give up, however, as they continued to press the Eph back line for a goal. Less than five minutes later, it was the Continentals' turn to rattle the post, as freshman Amanda Becker launched a cross to the back post from the right flank that looked to fall perfectly for Dunlap, but the fresman's shot, just like Sim's from the first half, somehow managed to squarely hit the post and deny the Continentals a goal.
The Continentals would rue their missed opportunities mere minutes later, as Eph senior Alison Magruder scored her second goal in as many games to kill off the game in favor of the Ephs. Freshman Evan Gancedo showed her strength on the ball to hold off a Continental defender to play a pass to junior Mai Mitsuyama near the right corner flag. Mitsuyama received the pass and sent a lobbed cross into the middle of the penalty area, near the six-yard box, where both Magruder and Kirshe were waiting. Both Ephs contested Cooley for the cross, and their pressure paid off as Cooley spilled the ball and Magruder poked home her second goal of the season.
After the game, Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard commented on her team's one-loss regular season: "We're very excited about claiming the regular season title. The best part is we think there is still more in us. It is really hard to believe a team as good as Hamilton isn't going to make the playoffs. They are very good, and it goes to show you how competitive the league is and how proud we are to be on top. That being said, this team is still very hungry and wants this [NESCAC] tournament title too."
With today's loss, Hamilton (8-7, NESCAC 3-7) were eliminated from one of the last NESCAC tournament places up for grabs, and their season is over. However, with the win, the Ephs (14-1, NESCAC 9-1) grab their tenth win in-a-row and record their eleventh clean sheet of the regular season. The Ephs look ahead to their NESCAC quarterfinal tilt on Saturday, which will be held at Cole Field in Williamstown, against an opponent that will be determined tomorrow based on the result of the Colby-Bates game. Kickoff for the quarterfinal matchup this Saturday is set for 12:30 PM, as the Ephs look to pick up in the postseason right where they left off today.
2014 NESCAC WOMEN'S SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday, November 1 at Higher Seeds
* * * No. 8 Colby at No. 1 Williams - 12:30 p.m. * * *
No. 7 Tufts at No. 2 Bowdoin - 12:30 p.m.
No. 6 Trinity at No. 3 Conn. College - 12:30 p.m.
No. 5 Middlebury at No. 4 Amherst - 12:30 p.m.
* * * Due to the Eph men's soccer team also hosting a first round
NESCAC Tournament game this game time may be altered. Please check for
updates at ephsports.williams.edu/landing/index, where schedule updates will be
posted as soon as they are confirmed.
Saturday, November 8 at Highest Remaining Seed
Semifinal Games - 11 am | 1:30 pm
Highest Remaining Seed vs. Lowest Remaining Seed
Remaining Quarterfinal Winners
Sunday, November 9
Semifinal Winners – Noon