TROY, N.Y. — The Ephs traveled just over the state border into New York to pay a visit to RPI on Saturday afternoon. With them, they took their perfect 9-0 start to the season, but their unblemished record didn't survive the 110 minute affair with the Engineers, as the Liberty League participants managed to keep the Ephs off the scoresheet, a feat that only Amherst and Lynchburg have managed over the course of the past two seasons. The 0-0 draw saw an array of chances for both sides, but neither team could quite put the finishing touches on any of their scoring opportunities, allowing for both sides to record clean sheets on the day.
"[RPI] played a great game today," reminisced Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard after the game, "I thought that they really took a lot of our options away. We never really gained any momentum over the course of the game until the last 30 minutes, and we paid for that."
The first chance of the game did indeed fall to the Engineers right at the quarter-hour mark. Maddie Steinmetz sent in a corner from the righthand side toward the near post, directly onto the head of Dali Alarian who looped a shot toward the opposite corner of the net, but Eph defender, Katie Wardlaw, was on hand to nod the ball off the line. The danger was cleared only momentarily, however, as the clearance found the feet of Cori Winslow, whose shot from a tight angle thankfully only connected with Palcheck's left post before it was finally blasted away from the Eph penalty area.
Five minutes later, the Ephs had their own first chance of the game at scoring, as Kristi Kirshe led the front line in a swift counterattack, forcing several defenders to commit to her before she cooly played Crystal Lewin through on goal. With just the Engineer keeper, Tori Riopelle, to beat, Lewin couldn't quite manage to find the back of the net, forcing Riopelle into a crucial early save. Fellow Eph striker, Audrey Thomas was right there to follow up Lewin's effort, but she could only managed to drag her left-footed shot wide of the target.
In the 36th minute, the Ephs had their second chance of the afternoon, this time after some great interplay between Hanna Kaeser and Natalie Turner-Wyatt. Kaeser did ever so well to take the ball right off the feet of her defender, before picking out Turner-Wyatt near the center of the area, but the Brooklyn native mishit her first-time shot, slicing it wide of Riopelle's left post.
The game went into the halftime break scoreless, but the Engineers did almost enough to open up the scoring less than a minute after the restart.
Bethany Hanson took one of her trademark long throw-ins, near the corner flag on the left side, lofting it nearly all the way to the near post, where fellow Engineer, Stephanie May, was waiting to flick the ball on. Instead, May's flicked pass ended up being a shot that nearly ended up in the back of the net, if not for Eph defender Gabz Amos-Grosser to head the ball off the line to keep the score even.
Just five minutes later, the Ephs threw another punch of their own, but they still couldn't manage to land one. Wardlaw was picked out beautifully on the left by the industrious Maddie Swarr. The Californian was off to the races down the byline, until she pulled up to pick out the feet of Thomas in the box. Thomas showed great strength to shrug off Hanson, turn, and fire a shot, but she got her angles wrong and only found the side-netting.
Four minutes later, Thomas looked sure to open the scoring as Kirshe unlocked the Engineer defense and played her clean through on goal against Riopelle. The in-form keeper, however, proved to be unbeatable once again, getting down well to save Thomas' low effort.
From there the game stalled until the final ten minutes, when it really began to open up for both teams.
Hanson once again trotted forward from her central defensive role to take a long throw-in on the left, and Amos-Grosser was once again called upon to ensure that a headed effort didn't cross the goal line, knocking the ball clear to maintain the Ephs' clean sheet.
Right up the other end, Thomas showed some of her impressive foot skills to evade several Engineer defenders before cracking a shot at goal that forced Riopelle into an acrobatic save and earned the Ephs a corner.
Mitsuyama sent the ensuing corner toward the Engineer penalty spot, expertly finding Kirshe with enough space to volley a shot at goal that only just stayed on the wrong side of the crossbar.
With the RPI 18-yard box well and truly under siege, the Ephs were right back on the offensive after Kirshe's off-target shot, with Thomas running the end line and smartly turning a defender before sending a teasing ball across the face of goal for the likes of Kirshe and Wardlaw, who both had shots blocked by Engineer defenders.
With the Ephs ruing their chances, the Engineers only just missed out on winning it at the death, as another long throw-in by Hanson almost found the back of the net in the 90th minute, after it was helped on its way by Alarian, but the RPI #6's effort trickled gratefully wide of Palcheck's right post just before the full-time whistle blew.
Neither side fared so well in the opening minutes of extra time, but in the 98th minute, the Ephs just about put the game to bed. Lewin collected a failed attempt at a clearance on the right side of the penalty area before skillfully curling the ball toward the back post with the outside of her foot, desperately searching for the outstretched foot of Thomas, but it was agonizingly just out of reach for the Ephs' leading scorer.
The second half of extra time only saw more pressure from the Ephs, as Thomas saw two more chances fall her way in the first four minutes.
Riopelle once again made a crucial save to deny Thomas a game-winner after a failed clearance by an Engineer defender.
Riopelle's save only gave the Engineer defense a moment's rest, though, as Thomas once again bore down on Riopelle's goal, managing to beat the DC-area native to a back pass. However, Hanson was on the cover, as she managed to place herself between Thomas and the goal to give Riopelle enough time to recover and to ensure that Thomas couldn't get off a shot at an open net.
When that chance went begging, the Ephs' fate seemed sealed, as both sides managed to keep each other out and usher the game to its 0-0 conclusion.
"I think that this was a bit of a wake-up call for us today," was the rallying cry of Pinard, before she added, "This season is short and you have to show up for every minute. We can't take any moments for granted like we did today. Turning points are only turning points if you make them, and it will be interesting to see how this team responds and if they come together moving forward."
The Ephs, now 9-0-1 after suffering their first draw of the 2015 season, look to respond on Sunday, as they return home to face off against MIT at 12:30 PM EDT. Meanwhile, the Engineers, now 5-5-4 overall, have time to recover for their return to conference play next Friday, home against St. Lawrence University, which is currently scheduled for a 4PM kickoff time.