LEWISTON, Maine - The Ephs ended their longest road trip of the regular season when they disembarked on the campus of Bates College on Sunday. Looking to bounce back from their draw with Amherst on Saturday, the Ephs managed as much, taking the lead in the first half via Alison Lu's 5th goal of the season and never looking back from there, as Kristi Kirshe added her name to the scoresheet in the second half as well.
Lu opened the scoring just past the 33-minute mark.
An attempted pass by Kristina Alvarado in the attacking third was cut out by a Bobcat defender, but the deflection fell kindly to Kirshe just outside the top of the 18-yard-box. The senior forward deftly dinked the ball over her defender's head and right into the path of Lu, who took one touch with her head to control and then another with her foot to poke the ball past Sarah McCarthy and into the back of the net.
The Ephs really amped up the pressure on McCarthy's goal in the second half, and after a flood of chances, Kirshe finally put one over the line, reversing the roles from the Ephs' first goal.
It was one of their trademark swift counterattacks the that produced the goal, with Lu driving at the Bobcat defense, before slipping Kirshe through. The Williams #12 made no mistake slotting the ball under McCarthy's arms, finally giving the Ephs the two-goal lead they deserved.
The game did not start with a flood of chances, however, as a large part of the game was played out in the midfield in the early goings with only an odd chance from Audrey Thomas in the 6th minute in terms of action.
"The wind played a big role today, especially in the first half when the wind was against us," explained Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard of the field conditions her team struggled with early on. "Between that and the field, which wasn't what we were used to, we were struggling to get a hold of the ball, and things weren't quite coming together the way we hoped. We stayed patient and tough though and that helped us push through the harder periods early on."
The Ephs sprang to life with the substitution of Lu, Kirshe, and Alvarado.
Alvarado made an instant impact, as she burst through the Bobcat backline with what seemed like her first touch of the ball. She sprinted toward McCarthy in net, but her powerful strike was right into the chest of the Bobcat keeper.
Minutes later, the Ephs had their first goal and took their 1-0 lead into the halftime break, only to come right back out on the front foot after the restart.
Seven minutes in, Katie Wardlaw broke loose down the right side, angling her run toward the penalty area. With Thomas on her left, the southern Californian elected to take the shot on herself, and she almost got the better of McCarthy, attempting to catch her out at the near post. The junior goalkeeper, however, managed to contort her body and palm the shot out of danger.
The chances then started to come thick and fast, as Madison Feeney had a pair of chances in quick succession, both off corners swung in from the right.
The first came to her as a result of Wardlaw's shot moments before. After a scrum in the penalty area, the ball bounced up a bit awkwardly for her to volley, causing her to mishit her attempt over McCarthy's bar.
The other came a few minutes later after Natasha Albaneze's out-swinger fell to the feet of Thomas at the back post. The Williams #8 held off pressure from a Bobcat defender long enough to pick out Feeney in the center of the area. With a smart layoff, the Washingtonian funneled the ball to the Vermonter's feet, but in her attempt to find the top corner, the sophomore only managed to find the wrong side of the bar.
Lu probably had the Ephs' best chance thus far at a second in the 67th minute. A beautifully worked passing move saw Alvarado find Kirshe in the heart of midfield, who quickly played the first-year clean through on goal with McCarthy, but this time the Bobcats' last line of defense was up to Lu's challenge, coming out to meet the Williams #16 and saving her inevitable shot to keep the margin at just the one goal.
Moments later, the Ephs had a corner, and Danielle Sim almost made amends for Lu, as she rose to meet Jacqueline Simeone's lofted ball into the area, nodding it toward goal. With McCarthy beaten, the Ephs looked assured of their second, but the Williams center-back couldn't beat the woodwork, hitting the base of the post and rebounding out for a defender to sweep clear.
In the 74th minute it was Kirshe's turn, as she sprinted forward on a counterattack alongside Lu who carried the ball up the left flank. As both Ephs charged into the area, Lu knocked the ball into the path of Kirshe, who first-timed it toward goal, but McCarthy again did well enough to deny Kirshe and keep the Bobcats in it.
Given a second opportunity five minutes later, Kirshe didn't make the same mistake twice, virtually ending the contest in favor of the Ephs.
The Eph defense was once again stingy with the chances they allowed their opposition to have, meaning the Bobcats had to take advantage of the very few they were given, something they were unable to do, however, opting mostly for long-range efforts.
"Each and every game, the defenders are learning a different piece of the puzzle," praised Pinard after another sparkling performance by her defensive unit. "They've done incredibly well so far to adjust to each new challenge that the teams we've played have presented, and today was no different. Bates exposed us in a way that others team haven't today, and they will continue to evolve in each and every game."
The one exception to that came in the final two minutes of the game when Riley Turcotte worked her way down the right side of the Ephs' defense, banging a cross off a defender to win a late corner. However, Erin Shea's ensuing delivery left much to be desired, and it was easily hoofed away by an Eph, more or less drawing the game to a close in the process.
After their loss, the Bobcats (2-4-1, NESCAC 0-3-1) shift their focus to Hartford, Connecticut and Trinity College, where they will travel next Saturday still in search of their first conference win.
With the win, the Ephs (6-0-1, NESCAC 4-0-1) return to their winning form and managed to produce multiple goals in a game for the first time in two weeks. They will look to carry that momentum forward and build on it, when they travel to Connecticut College next Saturday to take on the Camels at 12 PM EDT.
When questioned about the transition into October, Pinard urged her team to take the next step in their development and start being more ruthless in front of net.
"We needed to start scoring goals yesterday," joked Pinard. "Getting into the final third and creating chances is hard, but we do that really well. Now we just have to finish. People know that if we don't start scoring goals, we're going to put ourselves in tough situations. I want us to score more goals, but we've also gained a lot in the past few weeks by not scoring. It's forced us to get better in other departments to compensate, but now that October is here, we need to start hitting October form, and the next step has to be finishing."