WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — When Bates left Cole Field on yet another picture-perfect fall afternoon, they left having accomplished something that no other team that had squared off against the Ephs this season had managed to do, and that was keep Audrey Thomas off the scoresheet. As has been the case so many times over the last two seasons, however, when Thomas doesn't produce, her strike partner, Kristi Kirshe, is usually there in her stead. That was just the case on Sunday, as Kirshe's first brace of the season, both off passes from Crystal Lewin, sent the Bobcats home with little reward for their industrious work in shutting out Thomas. To go along with Kirshe's two goal haul, the Eph defense turned in a solid performance to log another clean sheet, and record the Ephs' seventh win in-a-row to start the 2015 season.
Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard knew from the outset that this game was going to be different from the rivalry contest against Amherst from the previous day: "We knew that this game was going to provide us a different challenge, and I thought it gave us the opportunity to really gain confidence playing the ball out of the back and determining the tempo…that is hard though when you're playing back-to-back games. It's tough following the Amherst game emotionally."
The slow start described by Pinard was ended in the 12th minute, however, when Kirshe opened up the scoring, knifing through the Bobcat defense to run onto an incisive through ball from Lewin. One-on-one with Sarah McCarthy, Kirshe calmly used her left foot to place the ball in the back of the net off McCarthy's right post.
Following the opening goal, Bates struggled to work themselves into the game with the Ephs dominating a vast majority of the possession, but the Bobcats engineered their first chance of the game in the 21st minute through Hannah Behringer. After a series of passes down the left, Behringer found the ball at her feet to fire a shot from 30 yards toward the left corner, but Eph keeper, Tressa Palcheck, saw it all the way and was over to make the save.
Four minutes later, Thomas was a matter of inches away from doubling the Ephs' tally, as Lewin orchestrated the move, finding Thomas with a long ball over the top of the Bobcat defense. The Washingtonian outpaced her defender to the ball, but her shot at goal flashed just wide of McCarthy's left post.
Not much changed after the restart, with Lewin once again playing creator in the 53rd minute, pulling off a beautiful dummy to get past her defender and center an early ball for Thomas. Sarah Gutch was alive to the danger, however, and stayed with Thomas the entire way, managing to get a foot in to block her shot away from McCarthy's goal.
With just over twenty minutes left to play, Thomas had her final opportunity of the game to ink her own name on the scoresheet and notch what would have been her 11th goal of the season. McCarthy had other ideas, however, as she managed to take the ball right off the feet of Thomas, as the Williams #8 attempted to round her for an open look at net.
Six minutes later, Kirshe would seal the game for the Ephs with her second beautiful finish of the day. Evan Gancedo found Lewin on the left side of the Eph attack, who quickly picked out the feet of Kirshe with an inch-perfect delivery, allowing the Massachusite to turn and curl a gorgeous effort past the outstretched McCarthy and into the right corner of the net.
Seven minutes from time, Kirshe was close to completing her hat trick, but McCarthy was on-hand to deny her that milestone and to ensure the deficit remained at just the two goals.
After the game, Pinard was nothing but forward-looking: "I love the results we've gotten, but what I love most is that this team wants more and knows there is more. I think no one is quite satisfied yet, and every day of training we're getting better. It's not coming from me. It's coming from them, and that's so exciting as a coach."
The Bobcats return to Maine with an overall September record of 3-2-2 (NESCAC 0-1-2) and to an almost exclusively NESCAC October schedule with plenty to play for. Their next matchup comes next Saturday at 11 AM EDT against NESCAC foe, Trinity, as they hope that home-field advantage will help them to their first NESCAC win of the season. Meanwhile, the Ephs, still perfect on the season at 7-0 (NESCAC 6-0), have one more game to go to finish off September, with a midweek non-conference contest against Springfield on the cards for Wednesday at 4:15 PM EDT on Cole Field.
Pinard closed with thoughts about her team's performance in September, looking forward to the game on Wednesday: "We've had a grueling September schedule. Academic pressures are increasing, and we're just going to have to gut this next week out and try to recover for early October. We know that September really determines November, so we're trying to finish September with a bang."