WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - The Ephs returned home to Cole Field on Saturday to take on the Raptors of Bard College after two straight weekends of games on the road, and after a cautious opening 5 minutes, the Ephs quickly took the advantage with an 8th minute goal from Audrey Thomas, never looking back from there on their way to a comfortable 5-0 win.
On the brink of the 8-minute mark, the Ephs opened the scoring as Thomas tallied her second of the season and her second in as many games.
Sarah Sciré received the ball in the midfield and deftly turned her defender, leaving the Raptor in her wake. Picking her head up to survey her options, the first-year decided to lift the ball over the defense in front of her, to match her senior partner's run. Timing her run to perfection, Thomas slipped past the two Raptor center-backs and made no mistake chipping first-half Raptor goalkeeper, Kelsey O'Brien to open the scoring.
Roughly 9 minutes later, Evan Gancedo doubled the Ephs' lead from the penalty spot.
Sarah Kelly abandoned her post in defense, surging through the midfield and into Bard's 18-yard-box. Indecisive at first about whether to pass or shoot, she allowed a Raptor defender, Miranda Reale, to recover, but the first-year from East Patchogue, New York made a clumsy attempt to dispossess her first-year counterpart from Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, gifting the Ephs a penalty.
Stepping up to take the chance from 12 yards, Gancedo made no mistake placing her shot past O'Brien with icy precision to grab the Ephs' second of the day.
Just before the 30-minute mark, Kirshe ghosted through the Raptor back line before letting lose and almighty rocket toward goal, requiring a strong pair of hands from the senior.
From the ensuing Jacqueline Simeone corner, the ball fell perfectly for Kirshe to volley toward the back post, but even though O'Brien was stranded on the other side of the net, Hattie Wilder Karlstrom was well placed to instinctively kick Kirshe's effort away from net to momentarily keep the Raptors' deficit at just the 2 goals.
Karlstrom's efforts were in vein, however, because less than a minute later Lu left her mark with a pinpoint finish into the bottom-right corner of O'Brien's net.
The Eph attacking trio completed a tidy exchange of passes after Alvarado picked out Kirshe, who dinked another ball over the Bard defense, and with a defender bearing down on her, Lu half-volleyed her effort low and to O'Brien's left, leaving the keeper with little chance of parrying the shot away, as it found the back of the net in spite of her getting a couple fingers to it.
The Ephs took their three-goal lead into halftime, but not without a brief lapse in concentration that allowed the Raptors a half-chance to draw a goal back.
After a weak pass back toward Danielle Sim at the heart of the Eph defense, Julia Gibson pinched the ball off the junior, and immediately beat a path toward goal. Sim, alive to the danger, quickly recovered and applied enough pressure to the Raptor attacker to force her into a rather tame effort that Olivia Barnhill dealt with handily.
With their three-goal lead in hand, the Ephs restarted the game on the front foot, and within 15 minutes had added a fourth for good measure.
Sciré incisively accelerated through the Raptor defense to get on the end of a through ball from Thomas, but second-half sub Chloe Ramos was out quickly to meet her and supply two strong hands to parry the first-year's shot away from goal.
Natalie Turner-Wyatt crafted an in-swinging cross from the ensuing corner, aiming for the back post, where Sciré did well to control the ball and smartly pick out Katie Wardlaw about 15 yards away from goal. The senior winger took one touch to control and then another to power the ball through the mass of Ephs and Raptors between her and net, beating Ramos in the process for her second goal of the year.
The Ephs continued to pour on the pressure, and Lu managed her second of the game, and her fifth in the last two, to reach double digits on the year in the 79th minute.
Kate Sands carried the ball up from defense through the midfield after a Raptor set piece, before finding Kirshe in the center of the pitch. With just the Raptor defenders between her and goal, the Ephs' all-time points leader eyed Lu on her right, and expertly carved apart the defense in front of her, to find Lu, who was ever-so-clever with her finish low and to Ramos' left to tally her team- and NESCAC-leading 10th goal of the season.
"I think we've progressively started to play a little more quickly," reflected Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard after her team's impressive 5-0 win. "I think we've been playing well since early September, just things are starting to fall, and when goals are scored, people feel better about things…and what a gift we have in our team to be able to play 90 minutes with people coming in and out of the game but maintaining a level that never drops. Our depth is our huge asset, and we took full advantage of that today."
With the win, the Ephs continue their unbeaten season (9-0-1), while the Raptors succumb for the first time in three games (7-5-0).
Bard has the rest of the weekend off in preparation for their second top-2 clash in 7 days, as they travel next to Geneva, New York to take on William Smith on Friday at 4 PM EDT.
The Ephs have less time to recover, however, as they play host to the MIT Engineers tomorrow afternoon with a 12:30 PM EDT kickoff.
"I think the team is excited; I'm excited," spoke Pinard of her team's next opponents on Sunday. "We love being pushed and challenged, and [MIT] is a great team. They're organized and have the ability to transition quickly, so we know we have to be on our game. We're ready for that and excited about it. That's what this team loves. We love being pushed and asking other teams to demand our best."