On its Senior Day, No. 3 women's soccer (13–0–1, 8–0–1 in the NESCAC) topped Tufts 3-0 on Cole Field this afternoon, clinching first place in the NESCAC regular season standings.
Williams and Tufts entered the game first and third, respectively, in the conference standings, with Connecticut College occupying the second spot, three points behind the Ephs and two ahead of the Jumbos. Connecticut College lost to Bowdoin 2-0 this afternoon, giving Williams a six-point lead in the standings with just one conference game left to play.
Tufts' organization was strong early in the game, and with five players in the midfield, the Jumbos prevented the Ephs from keeping the ball in Tufts territory. Williams began to create chances, however, near the midway point of the first half. From a free kick, Natasha Albaneze '18 chipped a beautiful ball past the back line, and Natalie Turner-Wyatt '19 got a foot on the ball but sent it wide.
On the other side of the field, Tufts midfielders and defenders looked to play long passes to forward Liz Reed. In the 24th minute, Reed put in a threatening cross from the left wing. After Eph goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill '19 palmed the ball away, Jumbo midfielder Sophie Lloyd nearly got to the rebound. Williams tri-captain Danielle Sim '18, however, cleared the danger.
In the 25th minute, a burst of speed took Eph forward Sarah Scire '20 used past her defender. Tufts goalie Emily Bower came out to meet Scire and made a crucial save.
Williams went up 1-0 in the 28th minute. Midfielder Aspen Pierson '21 made a strong run along the right wing and played a cross in for Kristina Alvarado '19. Alvarado slid onto the ball, and it deflected off a defender and into the net.
Pierson nearly doubled the lead minutes later, when she hit a powerful shot from distance. The ball bounced off the crossbar and nearly went over the goal line, but Bower kept it out.
The score remained 1-0 in Williams' favor until halftime. Creative attacking play in the latter part of the half led to an 11-5 shot advantage for the Ephs. Bower made two saves, while Barnhill had one.
Forward Alison Lu '20 created the opportunities in the second half, notching assists on each of the Ephs' final two goals. Williams doubled its lead in the 62nd minute, when Lu made a run down the middle and picked out tri-captain Evan Gancedo '18 at the right edge of the box. Gancedo took a touch and volleyed a powerful shot over the keeper to make it 2-0 Ephs.
In the 64th minute, Lu curled a brilliant ball past the Tufts back line. Alvarado got on the other end of the pass and slotted from inside the box for her second goal of the day.
The Jumbos had a late chance in the 83rd minute, when forward Mariah Harvey-Brown got a touch on a ball played into the box. Her shot went wide, however, and Williams finished the match with a 3-0 shutout, its 11th of the season.
The final shot totals stood at 14 for the Ephs to 10 for the Jumbos. Bowers finished with three saves, and Barnhill had one before being substituted for Whitney Lincoln '20.
After being held to just three goals in its last three games, Williams matched that total in today's game, an improvement head coach Michelyne Pinard attributes to the team's increased willingness to take shots.
"We started, frankly, to shoot today," Pinard said. "We had a lot of the ball last weekend and just weren't taking our chances to strike the ball. Today we did a good job of finishing out our attacking plan.
"It's not easy to score in soccer, and the shots just happened to fall today, which we'll take."
Gancedo's 62nd-minute goal was particularly memorable because today's game was the last regular season home contest for the senior class. Before the game, the Ephs honored their six seniors: Gancedo, Sim, Albaneze, Hanna Kaeser '18, Kate Sands '18 and tri-captain Jacqueline Simeone '18.
"They've been the most successful class in the history of the program from a statistical standpoint," Pinard said. "The quality of soccer that they strive to play day in and day out has really set the standard for us. They also have a good time and let others have a good time while we're striving to be excellent."
Pinard said she was pleased to have secured the regular season conference title but that she believes the team's best soccer is yet to come.
"I'm thrilled with the result and being regular season champions, but more than anything I love this team and working with them. They make me proud every day. I'm proud of how hard they work, how far they've come and the incredible soccer they play.
"What I love is that each game, we have to solve a different problem. From that, we can add a different element to our game. I think we're close [to our full potential], but we'll see how far along we are in November. The pace and intensity of 'win or go home' will bring out the best in this team, and I'm excited to see what that looks like."
Williams travels to play Middlebury on Tuesday at 3 p.m.