WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — It isn't always the case that you get the combination of windy, rainy, and cold conditions on the final day of September, but that would be an apt description of the circumstances on Cole Field Wednesday afternoon, as the Ephs took on an in-form Springfield team that could boast both a solid win against MIT and the narrowest of losses to Amherst in the first month of their 2015 campaign. The Ephs however were up for both the game and the weather on Wednesday, and saw off the Pride with goals on either side of halftime, one each from junior Kristi Kirshe and Katie Wardlaw, as well as a resolute all-around defensive performance for a third clean sheet on the bounce.
Kirshe struck first in the 25th minute, after Swarr put a ball right at her feet on the right side of the penalty area, allowing her to spin insider her defender and to curl a left-footed beauty into the corner and safely past the Pride goalkeeper, Brooke Fairman.
Just over three minutes after halftime, Wardlaw doubled the Ephs' lead, finishing off a mesmerizing series of passes. The ball eventually found Crystal Lewin in the right corner, before she zipped a pass into the box for Thomas, who did well to control the ball. The Washingtonian turned and found Wardlaw with a perfectly weighted pass to the near post for her to smash past second-half sub, Clara Boucher.
In spite of the two-goal advantage the Ephs held at the end of the contest, they did not dominate the opening portion of the game, with the Pride turning in a better performance than the Ephs in the opening minutes.
They earned the first several chances of the game, but the best of the lot fell to Nicole Fowler, after a teasing cross from fellow senior tri-captain Jessica Miller. Fowler beat her defender to the ball, but the pressure was enough to ensure that her shot went wide of Tressa Palcheck's goal.
Right up the other end of the field, the Ephs had their first chance of the game on a counter, as Lewin released Thomas down the right. After catching up with the pass, she raced to the byline and pulled the ball back, trying to pick out Kirshe at the far post, but Fairman was over well to ensure that the Massachusite's attempt at goal would not find the back of the net.
Kirshe would not waste her second bite at the apple, however, as she opened the scoring nineteen minutes later to put the Ephs well and truly on top.
After the goal, the Ephs only grew in confidence, as the Pride saw very little of the possession for the remaining twenty minutes of the first half.
The Ephs had a chance to reinforce their lead before halftime ten minutes after Kirshe's opener through the ever-dangerous Hanna Kaeser. The New Yorker made one of her probing runs down the right, before cutting toward goal and attempting to pick out the run of Natalie Turner-Wyatt in the center of the box. Fairman once again was alive to the danger, though, and she managed to snuff out the chance before the pass found the feet of Turner-Wyatt for what surely would have been the Ephs' second goal.
The Pride may have taken refuge at halftime in the fact that their deficit was just the single goal, but Wardlaw took little time before notching her first goal of the season to extend the Ephs' lead to two, less than four minutes after the restart.
Just before the hour mark, it looked like Thomas would add her name to the scoresheet too, but Pride defender, Bri Messier, had other ideas. Evan Gancedo applied pressure to the left side of the Pride defense before whipping in a pacy cross towards Thomas in the box. With Boucher out of position, the goalmouth was gaping, but Messier did a spectacular job putting her body on the line to deny Thomas anything more than just a sniff at goal, blocking her point-blank shot away from danger.
The final real chance of the game for either side came just over eight minutes from time that drew a truly incredible defensive save out of Lia Gagliardi. Jacqueline Simeone took a corner on the right side, flighting the ball toward the back post, where Madison Feeney connected squarely to the ball with her head, but somehow Gagliardi's reactions were instinctual enough to somehow head the ball perfectly onto the crossbar, before her teammate completed the clearance moments later.
After the game, Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard praised her team's well-rounded performance against solid opposition: "I'm really pleased with our performance today. Our goal was to put so many of the pieces to our September puzzle together, and I think that's exactly what happened."
The Pride take their respectable 6-2-1 record back to Springfield this weekend to face off against Babson on Saturday at 2:30 PM EDT in what is a conference tilt for them. Also, returning to conference play on Saturday, the Ephs look to continue their brilliant run of form in a rematch of last year's NESCAC Championship game on Cole Field against the Camels of Connecticut College. That game is set to kick off at 12 PM EDT.
"There's no doubt that we will be ready for [Connecticut College] this weekend," commented Pinard when asked about the upcoming fixture against the Camels. "We know that they haven't had a great year thus far, but we know that they're capable of great things."