WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - Still searching for their first conference win of the season, the Cardinals of Wesleyan University traveled to western Massachusetts to the campus of Williams College. However, three goals in the first quarter of an hour from the Ephs on Cole Field set the tone for the afternoon, as the Ephs went on to win 6-0 and set a new record for consecutive games unbeaten with 21.
"I'm really proud of the consistency of the program," reflected Eph head coach Michelyne Pinard on her team surpassing another program milestone. "I think that we're able to, game-in and game-out, perform at a high enough level to get those results. It's not always pretty…but the team is really focused on continuing to move forward. Certainly the standard set before in 2008 was a good one, so to bypass that is pretty impressive."
Sarah Sciré opened the scoring, less than two minutes after kickoff, to get the Ephs going early.
Evan Gancedo caught the Cardinal defense napping on the first throw-in for either side, and sent Audrey Thomas racing away toward goal. First-half Cardinal goalkeeper, Claire Coyle, came off her line to close down the angle with Thomas veering toward the end-line, but that allowed Sciré to make an unchecked run through the center of the box for Thomas to pick her out expertly, leaving the first-year with the easiest of tap-ins to open the scoring.
Five minutes later, the Ephs had their second of the afternoon, this time through Natasha Albaneze.
A failed attempt at a clearance fell kindly to the junior's feet on the edge of the area, and she drifted past two defenders with some excellent footwork, before walloping an effort past Coyle's outstretched arms.
Not stopping there, the Ephs polished off their early three-goal blitz, when Thomas found the back of the net in the 13th minute.
Gancedo again profited from a defensive lapse, as she cut out an underweighted pass before quickly feeding Thomas through on goal to confidently place to Coyle's right and into the back of the net.
Six minutes after the Ephs' third, Gancedo had a chance of her own to get in on the action, but the first-year keeper made an impressive save to keep the margin what it was for the time being.
Thomas bombed down the left side of the Cardinals' defense, before checking her run and surveying her options, ultimately deciding to pick out Gancedo at the top of the area, but the Williams #10's first-time effort was denied by a save at full stretch from Coyle.
The Cardinals finally got their attacking wheels spinning in the 23rd minute, as Mo Nelson bobbed and weaved her way forward into the Ephs' defensive-third. The Cardinal sophomore eventually worked her way into the penalty area to fire a shot off Katelyn Long, winning her side a corner in the process, but Nelson's ensuing cross into the area was eventually smothered by Barnhill, before the Cardinals could capitalize on their opportunity.
The Cardinals struggled to build on their first chance of the game, however, and the Ephs extended their lead to 4 in the last few minutes before halftime.
An initial Eph attempt was repelled by the Cardinal back line, but the clearance fell to the feet of Alison Lu, who teased a pair of defenders just outside the 18-yard-box, before feeding Lauren Brown on the right side of the area. Deciding between passing and shooting, the sophomore eventually settled on taking the shot herself, and she did so with great poise, rifling past Coyle to wrap up the Ephs' first-half scoring.
After the halftime break, things didn't get much better for the Cardinals, as the Ephs scored two quick goals on either side of the hour-mark.
In the 59th minute, Sciré grabbed her second of the day and fifth in the last two games.
Katie Wardlaw beat her defender to the end line on the left flank and cut inside toward goal, before picking her head up and attempting to slide the ball towards Thomas, who was hovering just outside the 6-yard-box. Instead of taking on a shot with a hoard of bodies around her, Thomas wisely redirected Wardlaw's pass toward the back post, where Sciré was lurking to pounce and notch her second tap-in of the day.
Before the Cardinals could even regain their footing in the game, the Ephs had scored again in the 61st minute through Thomas' second of the day.
Sciré turned provider this time around, as the first-year found the senior pushing forward into the Cardinal penalty area, and the Washingtonian made no mistake with another lethal finish, this time past second-half goalkeeper Zoe Cassels-Brown.
The Ephs wrapped up the game in the final 10 minutes with two more chances to score goals, neither of which came to fruition.
First, Madison Feeney spotted Kristi Kirshe's attack-minded run, launching a ball over the Cardinal defense for the senior to run onto. Feeney's nicely weighted long-ball fell right into Kirshe's path, and she looked to be one-on-one with Cassels-Brown, but Nola Neri didn't give up on the play, tracking back and denying the Eph's shot toward goal with an outstretched foot.
Several minutes later, Gabby Suarez won a penalty for the Ephs with a cross that was judged to have been handled by a Cardinal defender. The Eph senior stepped up to the spot to take the penalty herself, but her effort from 12 yards was at the right height for Cassels-Brown to save after she had guessed the right direction, locking in the final score line of 6-0.
After the game, Pinard focused on how her team has continued to get better and better over the course of the season.
"What I love about this team is that they are very self-aware," praised Pinard. "When we recognize something, they adjust, and they are able to fix it pretty quickly…this team is not complacent. We know we can keep getting better, and I'm excited to see them do that."
Both teams must now reset quickly, as each face off against NESCAC opponents on Sunday.
After again being denied their first conference win of the season, Wesleyan (3-6-3, NESCAC 0-4-3) will set out north on Route 7 up into Vermont to visit Middlebury tomorrow with a 1:30 PM EDT kickoff time.
Meanwhile, after notching their 11th win of the season, Williams (11-0-1, NESCAC 6-0-1) will play host to a rematch of last year's NESCAC Championship bout against Bowdoin. The Ephs will look to replicate their 2-0 victory on that November day last year, when the referee's whistle blows at 1:30 PM EDT.
"Bowdoin is solid all the way through," spoke Pinard looking forward towards tomorrow's encounter with the Polar Bears. "They're always organized, always solid, and always ready to play. So we know we're in for a good game, and we're excited about that. It's senior day tomorrow and senior weekend, and we adore and love these seniors so much that there's no doubt in my mind that we'll be sharper and that we will do the little things."