HARTFORD, Conn. — The Ephs continued their rapid start to their 2015 campaign with their second conference opponent of the opening week, necessitating strong play from the very outset of the season. However, the Ephs did not find themselves in the relative safe confines of Cole Field Saturday afternoon; instead, they were on the grounds of Trinity College. Fortunately, however, at the end of the day, the location made little difference, as the Ephs opened the floodgates for four different players to score on their way to topping the Bantams 4-1 on Campus Field.
The Ephs were immediately made aware of their unfriendly surroundings, as the Bantams pounced on their first opportunity of the game inside of three minutes. Taylor Kirchgessner connected squarely with an Andi Nicholson pass to give the Bantams the early 1-0 advantage. However, the Ephs would not stay behind for long.
In the 10th minute, Audrey Thomas would equalize, after latching onto the end of a beautiful ball from fellow junior Kristi Kirshe, poking the ball past the on-rushing keeper, Monica DiFiori. Thomas' second goal of the season catapulted her into tied for 10th place on the Williams all-time scorers list (25 career goals).
The level score would only stay that way for so long with the Eph frontline looking as lively as they did, and in the 29th minute, the Eph pressure paid dividends again. After a goalless drought in her first two years, Gabby Suarez scored her first ever goal after a chaotic scramble in the box, that saw the ball trickle into the back of the net, after DiFiori couldn't quite reach it.
After the game, Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard praised her team's resiliency: "We've been working a lot on keeping the ball and playing out of the back, and we didn't get frazzled by the early goal. We did well to hold onto it after that and work our way back into the game, and I'm very pleased."
Their resiliency didn't stop there, however, as they picked up in the second half right where they had left off. It took just over ten minutes after the restart for Kirshe to double the Ephs' advantage. Thomas received a ball on the right side of the attack in full stride, as she raced past her defender before rolling a pass across the face of goal towards Kirshe at the far post. The Williams #12's first touch wasn't the best, but she patiently spun her defender before belting a shot into the back of the net from close range, leaving DiFiori little hope of keeping the Bantam's deficit at just the one goal. With the goal, Kirshe also broke her way into the Williams all-time scorers list, drawing level on 25 goals with Thomas, as well as Sarah Walmsley '10 and Mindy Thompson '98 in tenth place.
Fifteen minutes later, Natasha Albaneze would put the match to bed, as she was on hand to extend the lead to 4-1 in favor of the Ephs. Fellow sophomore Hanna Kaeser made a run at the Bantam backline, but as she split the central defenders, one Bantam managed to knock the ball out of her possession. Unluckily for the Bantams however, it fell kindly to the feet of Albaneze who took one touch to control and then another to rifle the ball over DiFiori and into the roof of the net. Albaneze's ruthless finish extended her perfect strike rate, carried over from last year, as she has scored with all five of her shots on target.
Between Suarez and Albaneze, the Ephs put down a solid marker on Saturday for their depth in attack, a point that did not slip past Pinard's notice: "Depth is always one of our strengths, and it was so good to see different people get on the board. The fresh legs allowed for us to play at a higher tempo throughout the game, and we used that to our advantage."
The attacking proficiency of the Ephs today may have overshadowed what was still a dominant Eph defensive performance, after the early lapse in concentration. "We're relatively young in the back, so we're working through things tactically. As soon as we started to compete, we trusted our instincts and everything was fine. We graduated a lot of talent, so this isn't unexpected," commented Pinard after the game, as the Eph defense continued to learn and grow together on Saturday.
With the win, the Ephs improve to 2-0 (NESCAC 2-0), while the Bantams sink to 1-1 (NESCAC 0-1). However, the Bantams have a week to recover and bounce back before they play their next NESCAC foe next Saturday, which is a home clash against Hamilton that is set to kickoff at 11AM EDT. Meanwhile, the Ephs return home to face off against Castleton tomorrow morning at 11AM EDT on Cole Field.