AMHERST, Mass. - The Ephs renewed their rivalry with Amherst on Saturday afternoon in an attempt to build on their perfect 5-0 start to the season. Their intra-state rivals, however, had other ideas for the Ephs, as they tried to bounce back from losing twice in the span of a week.
By the end of the day, however, neither side arguably got what they wanted from the game, as Hannah Guzzi's first minute strike was canceled out by Kristina Alvarado's second-half goal.
After making the 70-minute trip east and away from the familiar atmosphere of Cole Field, the Ephs looked lethargic out of the gates, something that was punished ruthlessly by Hannah Guzzi just 49 seconds after the starting whistle.
The Amherst junior ran down a ball over the top from Maeve McNamara on the right side of the Ephs' defense, and shimmied her way past Katelyn Long. From a ridiculous angle, Guzzi took the Eph keeper and Eph defender patrolling her off-guard, and expertly chipped the ball over the raised arms of Olivia Barnhill, who looked deceived by the ball's flight as she watched it nestle softly in the left panel of her net.
After the goal, the Ephs dominated the possession and all the major statistics, but they reaped no reward for their efforts.
If anyone thought the flow of the game would change after the halftime break, they were wrong, and one of the Ephs' 22 shots finally found its way past Chelsea Cutler in goal.
Alvarado slipped through the Amherst back line after an attempted clearance by Megan Root. Root's clearance didn't find its way past Alison Lu, however, and the first-year had the presence of mind to immediately feed the southern Californian sophomore, who calmly placed the ball to the keeper's right to level the scoring.
"I think this team is tough; I think we're resilient; and I think that we have the confidence to create opportunities for ourselves," spoke Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard about her side's resiliency to fight back after conceding early to scrounge a 1-1 draw. "We knew the game wasn't over obviously, but we were confident in our ability to go at them right after their goal. I think we're all kicking ourselves a little bit for starting the way we did, but lesson learned. We'll do better next time."
In spite of both sides' efforts in the remaining 20+ minutes of regular time, then the 20 minutes of overtime, neither team could produce a game-winner, and the teams were forced to settle for a hard-fought draw.
Alvarado's tally, however, probably shouldn't have been the Ephs' first of the day, since they almost put together an immediate response to their first-half concession through Natasha Albaneze and Audrey Thomas.
In the 6th minute, Katie Wardlaw worked her way down the right flank before sizzling a low cross toward the penalty spot, where Albaneze was waiting to connect first-time, forcing a laudable save out of Cutler. The Amherst keeper might have done better with it though, as she spilled it right to the feet of Thomas, who was lurking for a rebound. The Williams #8, however, couldn't make the most of her chance and knocked the follow-up straight at Cutler, who didn't make the same mistake twice and held this time.
Just before the Ephs' goal on the 66-minute mark, Amherst looked to seize upon one of their few chances of the game, when Hannah Guzzi jetted past her defender to run onto a long ball over the top from midfield. Danielle Sim, however, was quickly around on the cover, and her intervention denied the pacey forward a chance for a second goal that would've significantly altered the trajectory of the game because the Ephs leveled the scoring just minutes later.
Boosted by their equalizer, Kristi Kirshe almost added a second four minutes after the first, when she barreled at Rubii Tamen, but the imposing sophomore defender forced Kirshe into a shot from a bit farther out than she probably would have liked, enough so that the senior's effort zoomed wide.
With the seconds winding down in the final minute of regular time, Albaneze had the Ephs' best chance to nab a winner.
With Amherst trying to repel the Ephs' final chance before the whistle, a miscued clearance bounced at the feet of Albaneze, who didn't hesitate to belt a volley toward Cutler in goal as time expired. With the sophomore keeper at full extension, every heart on Hitchcock Field skipped a beat, before the ball whistled wide of Cutler's right post.
Amherst opened the first period of overtime with much more ambition than any other time after their opening goal, but like the Ephs they struggled to create a meaningful chance with their possession.
It wasn't until the second overtime period, in the 105th minute, that a meaningful chance was orchestrated.
Jacqueline Simeone fought hard down the left side of the Amherst defense and eventually worked herself enough space to pick out a cross to the near post. Anticipating the pass, Kirshe made sure she was first to the junior's ball, but Cutler closed down the angle and made a crucial save.
With time slipping away in the 109th minute, Sim was called into action for a second time to put in a goal-saving tackle on an Amherst attacker.
Sloan Askins caught her defender wrong-footed, and blazed past her in an attempt to run down one of the many balls the Amherst midfield played over the top of the Eph defense. Sim read the danger expertly, however, and used her remarkable pace to run down the first-year, before she could test Barnhill.
Sim's second crucial intervention of the day was more or less the end of the afternoon's proceedings, since a few boots forward in the final minute came to nothing for either side.
After the game, Pinard had nothing but praise for her defensive unit, in spite of conceding the early goal.
"Our backs have done amazingly," hailed Pinard. "They've done such a good job reading the game. Their instincts about when to step and when to drop made very good Amherst forwards much less effective than they could have been. And when their forwards did get through, Dani [Sim's] ability to cover ground, all our backs ability to cover ground, was pretty obvious to see out there today."
Both schools face quick turnarounds, as each team squares off against another opponent tomorrow afternoon. Amherst (3-2-1, NESCAC 1-1-1) will play host to non-conference Farmingdale State at 2 PM EDT. Meanwhile, Williams (5-0-1, NESCAC 3-0-1) continue their trek east into Maine to visit Bates on their home turf in Lewiston, Maine at 12 PM EDT.
"We call it the Amherst hangover, and we're aware of it. We know it can creep up on us," warned Pinard of her team's pending game against Bates tomorrow. "In all honesty, I think that this result is going to make us really hungry…I think we're going to be so ready to play and compete again and get on the board a little bit more. We want to win that race to 1, and then we can go from there."