WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - The Ephs continued their stint of games on Cole Field on Saturday, as the visiting Colby College Mules had ambitions of dethroning the reigning National Champions.
With the memories of an 8-0 defeat from last year, the team from south-central Maine endeavored to avenge their loss at the hands of Michelyne Pinard's women. Their task began with shoring up their defensive work at the back, and the Mules managed that quite well for the better part of an hour.
They were able to keep the Ephs at bay for a while, but eventually a wonder-goal from Eph first-year Sarah Kelly broke the deadlock, forcing the Mules to seek out an equalizer that never came for them.
After an hour of toil, the Ephs finally reaped the rewards of their creativity and pressure.
The goal started from one of the Ephs' 13 corners in the match. This particular one was taken short to the feet of Katelyn Long, who then lofted a cross into the box. After several moments of confusion and attempted clearances, the ball worked its way out of the scrum to the feet of Kelly, who took one touch to control and then another to knock a shot toward Sam Rizzo in goal. However, the sophomore goalkeeper had no hope of getting a finger to the first-year's unstoppable effort, as it caromed off the under side of the bar before crossing the goal line.
"One benefit of early injuries by older players was that everyone had to be ready to step up, and that has really contributed to our early sense of team," spoke Eoh head coach Michelyne Pinard after the game about the continued contribution of all her players to the success of the team. "Now, if we can continue to put the pieces together that will be even more exciting."
The Mules tried to mount a response, but the Ephs shut down the game, barely allowing the blue and gray a half-chance at goal that would draw them level.
The Ephs had a shout for a penalty shortly after the opening goal, as Audrey Thomas went to ground in the penalty area after a challenge by a Colby defender, but the referee waved play on.
Ten minutes from time, a challenge on Madison Feeney outside the penalty area was deemed a foul, and Natasha Albaneze almost found the back of the net, if her free kick had not curled so much, finding the outside of the far post with her right foot instead of the inside.
Then, in the dying moments, Kristi Kirshe had a chance to put the game to bed.
Feeney blazed down the right flank and expertly picked out the knifing run of Albaneze just inside the penalty area on the right side. The junior New Yorker quickly picked her head up to locate Kirshe, pulling the ball back in the senior's general direction. Unfortunately though, the Ephs' leading goal scorer among active players couldn't quite redirect her shot on target, dragging her attempt wide of the mark.
The game finished 1-0 in favor of the western Massachusetts outfit, keeping their perfect start to the season going (4-0, NESCAC 3-0), while the Mules are handed their second loss of the season (2-2, NESCAC 0-2).
After the game, Pinard focused on how many opportunities the Ephs had to score, hoping that in the future, her team can be more ruthless.
"We had a lot of quality chances," noted PInard. "So my expectation is that we become more efficient collectively. Frankly, I couldn't care less who scores, and I'm not putting a whole lot of stock on what year they are. We just want to feel like a team and play like a team, and our goal is to get better every game. I thought we inched forward today, and we're going to keep inching forward."
As Pinard hopes her team can produce more goals from the chances they've created on the attacking side of the game, she can only be pleased with her team's efficiency in defense, as the Ephs recorded their 3rd clean sheet in 4 games to start the season.
"[Our defense] has done a great job," praised Pinard. "Having coach [Sarah] Raymond completely focus on them, and their evolution as a unit, has been amazing. It's helped them become tight defensively, more so than our team has ever been this early. I think Dani [Sim] went into a roll that she's, frankly excited about and ready for, but it wasn't comfortable. She's growing into it in such a big way. It's just been amazing to watch."
The Mules now have the next six days to rest up before they hit the road again next weekend to travel to Connecticut, where they will take on Trinity on Saturday and Connecticut College on Sunday.
The Ephs have a quicker turn-around, however, and return to action tomorrow when they take on non-conference opponent, RPI, who happened to be the first team to deny Williams a win last season when the Ephs traveled to nearby Troy in October.
"One of the reasons that game [with RPI last season] was so frustrating for us was we were not playing as urgently as I think we all wanted to," reflected Pinard on her side's tie with the Engineers in 2015. "We were working hard, but we weren't quite competing. We're in a better place competitively at the moment, and I think that will be important for tomorrow and beyond. We still need to solve the middle-third and entering the final-third, and if we do that and keep competing defensively, then I like our chances."
The Ephs will try to learn from last year's mistakes tomorrow at 12 PM EDT.