Ephs Set to Host NESCAC Semifinals & Finals This Weekend

Lilly Wellenbach
Lilly Wellenbach

W A T C H  Both Semifinal Contests & Championship Tilt Online

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Ephs earn place in NESCAC Finals for 8th season in-a-row with 2-0 win over Middlebury

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA --- It always seems to be a tense affair between the Ephs and the Panthers, and the first of two NESCAC Semifinals match-ups on Cole Field Saturday was no different. The physicality and talent of both teams shined through, but a moment of chance and a moment of brilliance saw the Ephs claim a place in the NESCAC Finals on Sunday.

The moment of chance came in the 72nd minute for the Ephs, as a Panther back-pass to freshman keeper Emily Eslinger, allowed for Eph senior Alison Magruder to nab the ball off Eslinger on the right side of goal, take a couple of touches, and then bury the ball into the back of an empty net. Magruder's third goal of the season, all of which have come in the last four games, allowed the Eph contingent of supporters a huge sigh of relief.

The Panthers responded to the first goal well, earning a free kick in a dangerous area following a corner, but the more open Middlebury side proved had to open up to the Williams counter much more then they would've liked.

The moment of brilliance came just five minutes later, as Eph sophomore Kristi Kirshe produced her 11th goal of the season at the end of a quick and powerful counterattack. Eph junior Crystal Lewin collected an attempted clearance by the Panthers on the right wing after a probing run by Eph sophomore Audrey Thomas, only to then immediately send an inch-perfect cross back into the box to match the run of Kirshe, who elevated over her defender and smashed a beautiful header past Eslinger to double the Ephs' lead.

The Ephs' two goals in a five-minute span belied the number of chances that either side produced in the first half.

One of the Ephs' few chances at goal in the first half came on their very first foray forward just inside of two minutes. Lewin received a ball from Magruder on the left side of the field and carved open the Panther defense, looking for the knifing run of Thomas, who ran onto the ball and pushed her way forward into the Panther penalty area, only to find her dangerous-looking cross cut out smartly by senior Panther defender Molly Parizeau.

The Panthers had their first real chance of the game in the 23rd minute, as senior Carter Talgo won a corner on the right side for the Panthers, taken by fellow senior Moria Sloan. Sloan's out-swinging cross into the box deflected to the top of the box, falling kindly for junior Hannah Robinson, but Kirshe did well to get in front of the ball and body-block Robinson's rocketed shot away from danger.

The best chance of the half for the Ephs came in the 28th minute, as Kirshe played an incisive pass between the Panther central defenders to match the run of senior Louisa Costa, but with only the keeper to beat, Costa couldn't quite lift her shot over the onrushing Eslinger, allowing her to deny Costa spectacularly to keep the score level.

The Ephs, however, wouldn't feel too unlucky for long, as the woodwork of Eph senior keeper Hannah Van Wetter's goal came through to deny the Panthers of their best opportunity to score on the day. In the 38th minute, Sloan took another corner from the right side of the Panther attack, sending a ball to the back post toward senior Sophia Kligler, where she connected her head with the ball, beating both her defender and Van Wetter, but she couldn't quite beat the crossbar, as it ensured that the score remained level at 0-0 heading into halftime.

Not much changed between the first and the second halves, as both teams were still pressing for goal to break the deadlock However, the Panthers looked the more likelier of the two sides to open up the scoring in the minutes before the two goals.

The Panthers won a free kick near the left corner flag, just four minutes before Magruder's opening goal. Sloan once again lined up the set-piece, but her in-swinging ball only finds the fists of Van Wetter, as she attempted to punch the ball out of danger. However, the ball fell kindly to Talgo, who had a look from ten yards out to blast a ball past Van Wetter, but she skied her shot well over the crossbar.

Then the Ephs took advantage of their chances, as first Magruder then Kirshe found the back of the net.

With the two-goal lead, the Ephs' stalwart defending gave the Panthers no real look at getting a goal back, as they earned their sixth clean sheet in-a-row, their second against Middlebury this season, and their thirteenth of the season.

After the game, Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard once again praised the quality of play when the Panther and the Ephs take the field against each other: "Middlebury just have some unbelievable players, and they're unbelievably coached. It's really difficult to break them down, and we had to work really hard all over the field, while being patient and tough on the field. There's no doubt the first goal gave us a lot of momentum, but it gave us the confidence to get behind them and get the second."

Middlebury's NESCAC tournament run, which saw them defeat Amherst on their own field, comes to an end in the NESCAC tournament, bringing their record to 10-7 on the season, as they await to see if they will receive an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament that starts next season. 

The Ephs' NESCAC tournament run continues, however, as they lift their record to 16-1 on the season, grabbing their twelfth win in-a-row and maintaining their perfect home record this season. With the win, the Ephs earn a place in the NESCAC finals for the eight year running, and they look for their sixth title in that same span. The Ephs play the winner of the second semifinal of the day between Connecticut College and Bowdoin, and the game is scheduled for a 12 PM EST kickoff.

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HADLEY, Mass. –
Top-seeded Williams (15-1-0, 9-1-0 NESCAC) continues its path towards collecting its sixth conference crown in eight years when it hosts the remaining rounds of the 2014 NESCAC Women's Soccer Championship this weekend at Cole Field.

There is no admission fee to see any of the three games in the NESCAC Women's Soccer Championship tournament this weekend at Williams.

Saturday's schedule gets underway at 11 a.m. when the Ephs take on fifth-seeded Middlebury. Second-seeded Bowdoin and third-seeded Connecticut College square off at 1:30 p.m. Advancing teams will battle for the NESCAC championship on Sunday at noon with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament up for grabs.

The Ephs earned the right to host the final four for the first time since 2009 when they defeated eighth-seeded Colby, 1-0, on Saturday. Senior Lilly Wellenbach (West Bath, Maine) supplied the lone goal of the contest in the 67th minute on a penalty kick to send Williams to its 12th overall semifinal appearance riding an 11-game winning streak.

Williams has appeared in 10 of the last 13 NESCAC Championship contests, but to improve on those numbers they will have to get past the defending champions from Middlebury.

Williams owns the top scoring offense and stoutest defense in the conference, averaging 2.74 goals per game and allowing just 0.37 goals per game. Since suffering its only loss of the season, a 2-0 decision at Amherst on September 20, the Ephs have surrendered just one goal over the last 11 games, while netting 32 goals.

Sophomores Kristi Kirshe (Franklin, Mass.) and Audrey Thomas (Bellevue, Wash.) have provided a solid 1-2 scoring punch for the Ephs. Thomas leads all NESCAC players with 26 points and 12 goals, while Kirshe is right behind her with 24 points and 10 goals. In goal, Williams has relied on senior Hannah Van Wetter (Lakewood, Colo.), who has a league-best 0.44 goals against average and an .857 save percentage. The Ephs have won seven overall titles.

Williams will face fifth-seeded Middlebury (10-6-0, 5-5-0 NESCAC) in a rematch of last year's championship game that saw the Panthers come out on top, 1-0. Sophomore Katherine Hobbs' (Menlo Park, Calif.) first collegiate goal in the 39th minute against fourth-seeded Amherst proved to be the game-winning goal, as Middlebury earned a trip to its 11th semifinal appearance courtesy of the 1-0 quarterfinal victory.

Junior Jamie Soroka (Redondo Beach, Calif.) leads the team in points (15), goals (5) and assists (5), while senior Claire Nishioka (Wayland, Mass.) has added four goals as well. Since moving into a starting role in late September, first-year goalkeeperEmily Eslinger (Wayzata, Minn.) has compiled a 1.00 goals against average and a .643 save percentage, while posting a 7-3-0 record.

Williams and Middlebury are familiar foes in NESCAC Championship play, as the Ephs claim a 4-2-3 record against the Panthers in the postseason. Saturday's game marks the fifth time the programs have met in the semifinals with the most recent decision resulting in 0-0 double-overtime tie that saw Williams advance to the title tilt on penalty kicks, 5-4. In their regular season meeting on October 19, the Ephs came away with a 1-0 win when the game-winning goal was scored in the 51st minute.

Saturday's second semifinal features second-seeded Bowdoin (12-3-0, 8-2-0 NESCAC) and third-seeded Connecticut College (14-2-0, 8-2-0 NESCAC). This will be the first postseason match-up between the squads, as the both teams look for their first league title.

Bowdoin scored three goals in the second half to turn a 1-0 halftime lead into a 4-0 victory over seventh-seeded Tufts in the quarterfinals. The Polar Bears saw four different players score, while junior Jamie Hofstetter (Chester, N.J.) assisted the second goal and recorded the third. Hofstetter has netted a team-high six goals with senior Amanda Kenniston (Shelburne, Vt.) and junior Kiersten Turner (Gorham, Maine) scoring five goals apiece. Defensively, Bowdoin has one of the top goalkeepers in the conference in junior Bridget McCarthy (Hopkinton, Mass.), who has a league-best .901 save percentage and ranks second with a 0.49 goals against average. The Polar Bears are playing in their tenth overall semifinal game, but are making just their second appearance in the last six seasons. Bowdoin came up short in its two previous championship appearances versus Williams in 2007 and 2012.

Connecticut College advanced to its first NESCAC semifinal since 2004 with a 3-0 win over Trinity last Saturday. Senior Rebecca Raymond (Lowell, Mass.) recorded a goal and an assist to help the Camels set a new program record for wins in a season at 14. Connecticut College is paced by first-year Michelle Medina (Hartford, Conn.), who ranks third in the league with 21 points and fourth with eight goals. Senior Astrid Kempainen (Chazy, N.Y.) tops all conference players with nine assists, while three of her five goals have been game-winners. Sophomore Bryanna Montalvo (Rocky Hill, Conn.) has played the entire season in goal, having posted a 0.95 goals against average and a .736 save percentage.

The Polar Bears prevailed in the regular season meeting between the squads, 3-1, on October 18. Each team is on a four-game winning streak.

2014 NESCAC Women's Soccer Championship

Quarterfinals - Saturday, November 1

No. 1 Williams def. No. 8 Colby, 1-0

No. 2 Bowdoin def. No. 7 Tufts, 4-0

No. 3 Connecticut College def. No. 6 Trinity, 3-0

No. 5 Middlebury def. No. 4 Amherst, 1-0

Semifinals - Saturday, November 8

hosted by Williams

No. 5 Middlebury at No. 1 Williams - 11 a.m.

No. 3 Connecticut College vs. No. 2 Bowdoin - 1:30 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, November 9

hosted by Williams

Semifinal Winners - Noon

Women's Soccer Season Outlook
September 2, 2014 Women's Soccer Season Outlook