WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - After their season-opening win midweek away at Hamilton, the Ephs continued their NESCAC play with their home opener on Saturday afternoon against Trinity, who had only bested the purple cows once in 22 games since 1995.
That lop-sided head-to-head record meant very little once the game kicked off on Cole Field, however, as the Bantams took a lead with just over 20 minutes remaining in regulation thanks to Laura Nee, only to see their lead turned on its head thanks to two goals from the purple and gold, the first coming by way of Sarah Scire 8 minutes after the Bantams took the lead and the game-winner by Natalie Turner-Wyatt less than 3 minutes after the start of overtime.
Nee opened the scoring in the 68th minute after a strong spell of possession by the Ephs. Tricia Pollock made a run at the Eph backline, drawing multiple defenders toward her, before she picked out the senior on the right side of the box. Nee then worked the ball onto her left foot and curled one toward the far corner, where Eph goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill was able to get a hand to it, but not enough of one to redirect the shot away from goal.
The Eph faithful, momentarily stunned into silence by the Bantam lead, weren't silent for long, as Scire's endeavor was immediately apparent in the Ephs' first trip up the field in attack after the goal.
And sure enough, in the 76th minute, the first-year from New Jersey had the Ephs level.
Kristi Kirshe, so often the focal point of the Eph attack, initiated the move with one of her trademark runs through midfield, magnetically attracting defenders to her, before poking the ball toward Natasha Albaneze on the edge of the penalty area. With great awareness the junior striker smartly flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Scire, who looked at first to have mishandled her touch, but worked the ball out from under her feet quickly enough to fire off a shot that ultimately made it over the line in spite of a temporary intervention by Bantam shot-stopper Julia Pitino.
With the Ephs buoyed by their equalizer, they relentlessly threw numbers forward in attack, and they reaped their reward in the very early stages of overtime.
Sarah Kelly bombed forward down the right flank, and knocked a cross towards the back post and seemingly over everyone's head, except for Turner-Wyatt, who arrived just on time to catch Pitino out of position so that she could punch in the winner.
With a goal and an assist, the newly arrived first-years were once again a vital component to the Ephs' narrow margin of victory, something Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard did not hesitate to make note of after the game.
"The first-years are good soccer players, good athletes, and great competitors," praised Pinard. "It's not easy to show up on your first weekend and compete at this level. And they're doing it, and thank goodness because they're helping us in really key moments."
Although the team in blue opened the day's scoring, the Ephs might have been up 2-0 if they had not had two goals ruled out for offsides.
The first of those two came just after the second-half restart in the 48th minute.
Pitino made rather a mess of a straightforward cross into the box by Kelly, leaving the ball on a platter for Nkem Iregbulem to bundle it home for what would have been her first goal in an Eph jersey, but the assistant referee's flag went up immediately for offsides.
The other one came only a minute before Nee got her goal.
This time, Kirshe carved apart the Bantam defense with a perfectly weighted through ball for Alison Lu, who slotted a composed finish past Pitino, but again the assistant's flag was raised for offsides.
Before they could recover from witnessing another goal being disallowed, the Ephs were down a goal and required Scire and Turner-Wyatt to produce several special moments to keep the Ephs' early start flawless.
"Trinity is a very organized team," spoke Pinard of her hard-to-break-down opposition. "We didn't start finding their seams and playing with urgency until the second half. The surface here is slow if you let it, but we're trying to combine urgency with composure. And I thought that, frankly, we did that in overtime."
With the win, the Ephs maintain their bright start to the season at 2-0 (NESCAC 2-0), while the Bantams continue to seek their first win of the new campaign with a record of 0-1-1 (NESCAC 0-1-0).
The Ephs have an immediate return to action tomorrow at 12 PM EDT, when they take on their first non-conference opponent of the year in Skidmore, who hold a similar 2-0 record after a perfect start to their season.
"Tomorrow we'll look to combine the first half and the second half [of today's game]," confessed Pinard of how she plans on building off Saturday afternoon's performance. "We want the composure on the ball that we had in the first half and the possession with urgency in getting forward and getting behind their backs that we had in the second."
With less than 24 hours rest, only time will tell if Pinard's strategy can be implemented in time, but she certainly has a squad of players who are willing and ready.