MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — The Ephs made the 2 hour and15 minute trip early on Saturday morning to Connecticut to face off against the Cardinals of Little-Three rival Wesleyan who were in need of a result to better their chances at qualifying for the NESCAC Tournament with only several games left in the regular season. The Ephs, gearing up to conclude what has been another grueling run of four games in eight days, needed over 102 minutes to score this year, as opposed to last year when Audrey Thomas opened the floodgates just after the ten-minute mark. However, it was all Kristi Kirshe's doing on Saturday, as she blasted in a game-winning goal in the 13th minute of overtime to leave Cardinal fans in dismay on Jackson Field.
Without a goal from either side in the 90 minutes of regular time, the Ephs saw overtime for the fourth time this season, and only then did the Ephs attack really come to life.
About halfway through the first period of overtime, Kristina Alvarado raced Cardinal keeper, Meghan Hanan, to a ball, only fractionally losing out to the Cardinal sophomore. However, Hanan's clearance ricocheted off Kirshe, who was making a late run into the box, causing everyone to hold their breaths momentarily until it became clear that the deflected ball wasn't going to find the back of the Cardinal net.
Just before the halftime break of overtime, Kirshe put the Cardinals on notice for her eventual game-winner, as she pulled up from just over 20 yards to attempt a chip over Hanan. Thankfully for the Cardinals though, Kirshe's lifted effort didn't dip quite enough, only managing to find the top-netting of the goal.
Just over two minutes after the overtime restart, however, Kirshe bagged her 9th goal of the season, and third in two games, to give the Ephs a hard-won victory. Alvarado worked her way down the right touchline before squaring for Kirshe on the right side of the Cardinal penalty area. With a touch to control and another to turn and create space, she only needed one more to rifle an effort past Hanan and finally break the will of the Cardinal keeper, who had saved the Ephs' first nine shots on target.
"I was pleased with our play in overtime," praised Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard after the game. "I just hope we can build on that moving ahead."
It wasn't all so straightforward for the Ephs during regular time on Saturday, but they managed to dominate the proceedings in the early goings.
The Ephs had the first half-chance of the game as Natalie Turner-Wyatt sent a long ball over the top trying to pick out the foot of Kirshe, but the Massachusite couldn't quite connect with the ball to volley home past Hanan.
Later on in the half, Katie Wardlaw had a deflected shot fall kindly to her feet about 15 yards out from goal, but she knocked her effort well over Hanan's crossbar.
The second half story was slightly different, as the Cardinals began to see more of the ball, and ultimately forced Eph keeper, Tressa Palcheck, into action on three separate occasions in the second half alone.
The Ephs had the first chance, however, as Kirshe put the ball in the back of the Cardinals goal after she ran onto a threaded through ball from Mai Mitsuyama, only for it to be ruled out, as the assistant referee had his flag up for offsides.
Possibly lifted by the offsides decision, the Cardinals went on the offensive, managing to accrue three corners in quick succession that saw Isabel Clements and Madeline Keane send several shots toward Palcheck, but the junior keeper was up for each effort that the Cardinal duo managed to put on target.
In the final twenty minutes of the game, the Ephs really started to up their attacking game, as Hanna Kaeser made a probing run down the right before sending a cross into the near post looking for Katelyn Long, but the first year mistimed her close-range shot and only managed to hit it wide of Hanan's right post.
With overtime looming, the Ephs threw numbers forward to try and find a regular-time winner, but to no avail, as the Cardinals remained resolute in defense, as the combination of Kirshe, Mitsuyama, and Swarr were all looking to create something but were kept out well.
However, once overtime began, more or less everything fell in favor of the Ephs, and they eventually got their goal through Kirshe, as she drew level with her strike partner on 79 career points for the Ephs, in a tie for 8th place on the Ephs' all-time points list.
After the game, Pinard discussed her satisfaction with just getting the result: "We're thankful to get away with a win out here today. Wesleyan is an incredibly organized team playing inspired soccer on both ends of the pitch."
After the heartbreaking loss that saw them sink to 5-5-2 (NESCAC 2-3-2), Wesleyan must recover quickly as they travel to in-state rivals, Trinity, on Sunday for another crucial NESCAC game set to kickoff at 2 PM EDT. With their 3rd overtime victory of the season, the Ephs improve to 12-0-1 (NESCAC 8-0-0), and they mercifully have a week off until their final home game of the regular season against Tufts next Saturday. That game is set to kickoff at 1:30 PM EDT, with senior day proceedings to take place before the game.