WATERVILLE, Maine – Women's soccer (4–0, 3–0 in the NESCAC) topped Colby (2–1–1, 0–1–1 in the NESCAC) 3-0 this afternoon, extending its season-opening winning streak to four games.
The Ephs dominated the possession battle and kept a typically dangerous Mules offense, which had scored 10 goals in its previous two games, in check.
Williams pushed the pace from the opening kick and created chances early. In the seventh minute, Natasha Albaneze '18 sent a low cross through the penalty area, but the ball skidded just past Alison Lu '20. In the 12th minute, Albaneze had a close-range shot off a feed from Lu, but Colby goalkeeper Dani Lonati made a strong save.
Albaneze had another chance just a minute later, and she opened the scoring in the 13th minute. In a bizarre sequence, the Eph forward was pushed to the ground in the box. Several players froze, expecting the referee to signal for a penalty. The whistle was not blown, however, and Albaneze caught the keeper off guard and netted to make it 1-0 Williams.
After the first goal, the Ephs' high-powered offense was slowed by the Mules' tenacious defense. Colby defenders Lindsay Ayers and Olivia Siegel made some key interventions, and Lonati had seven first-half saves.
Under frequent pressure, Colby was forced to drop forwards and midfielders back for defensive reinforcement. The Mules consequently struggled to get deep into Eph territory when they won possession. With few options forward, the home side often elected to play long balls over the top, seeking to play a striker past Williams' back line.
Mikayla Kappes '21 nearly doubled the advantage at the end of the first half. She took a pass from Sarah Scire '20, feinted a defender and got a shot off. However, the ball hit the crossbar and went out for a goal kick.
The Ephs outshot the Mules 11-1 in the period, and the home side did not record a shot on goal before halftime.
The visitors dialed up the pressure shortly after play restarted. Sarah Kelly '20 put in a good cross from the right wing, but the Mules cut out the danger. Then, in the 47th minute, Natalie Turner-Wyatt '19 hit the post with a shot after Lu set her up.
In the 53rd minute, Lu made it 2-0 for the away side. Having been denied by Lonati twice in the game, she finished methodically on her third try. Albaneze picked her out at the edge of the 6-yard box, and after a Colby defender blocked her initial effort, Lu buried the ball into the net.
The Mules responded forcefully and saw their best chance of the game in the 55th minute. Katherine Gillespie sent in a ball from the left wing and connected with Hannah Brozdowski in the right side of the box. From a sharp angle, however, Brozdowski was unable to manage a shot on goal.
In the 60th minute, the Ephs scored their third goal of the day. Attacking down the right side, Scire drove a hard shot that Lonati blocked well. The rebound bounced to Albaneze, who played the ball back to Ilana Albert '21 in the left side of the box. Unmarked, Albert took her time to set up a shot and sent a rocket into the back of the net.
It was the first goal at the collegiate level for Albert, a Pittsfield native who has made in impact early in the season from her left wingback position. Albert's pace, skill and work rate have continually created chances for the Ephs and stretched opposing defenses.
"She's an incredibly dynamic player," head coach Michelyne Pinard said. "As she stops thinking and starts playing, you're going to see her create more and more. She can do it all: She's quick on the ball, she can shoot, and she is a workhorse and outworks people. Overall, I couldn't be more pleased with her impact."
Colby forward Sarah Lofstrom forced a save from substitute goalkeeper Whitney Lincoln '20 in the 75th minute, and Ally Ingraham sent a shot just wide in the 90th minute. Nevertheless, the scoreline stood until the clock ran out, and the Ephs prevailed 3-0.
The Ephs kept their opponents off the scoreboard for the third straight game, an achievement Pinard attributes to strong defensive pressure.
"We didn't give Colby much time or space on the ball," Pinard said. "We played into the middle third and kept attacking opportunities at bay."
She added that her team countered Colby's long ball strategy well. "Our goal is to get pressure on the ball as quickly as possible," she said. "As soon as we get pressure, we're squeezing space. On any big ball, we have numbers behind, so that typically goes right where we want it to."
Forward Kristina Alvarardo '19 made her season debut in the game, and tri-captain forward Jacqueline Simeone '18 returned to the field after being injured in the season opener. Pinard said she was pleased to see the two key contributors return.
"People have been working so hard to get back," she said. "Our depth is a key to our success, so the more people we have healthy, the more dangerous we are. I'm excited to see them back."
The women travel to Portland, Maine, to play Bowdoin at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.