WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- No. 3 Williams women's soccer (14–1–1, 8–1–1 in the NESCAC) topped Bowdoin 4-0 this afternoon on Cole Field in the first round of the NESCAC tournament.
The Ephs entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed, while the Polar Bears were seeded eighth.
After being shut out in Tuesday's loss to Middlebury, Williams created several early chances in today's game. In the opening stages, Natasha Albaneze '18 played Alison Lu '20 through, but Bowdoin goalkeeper Rachel Stout kept Lu's shot out with a strong one-on-one save.
Midfielder Victoria Laino '21 started the scoring in the 14th minute. At the edge of the penalty area, she teed up a shot and powered it past the keeper. Although Stout got a hand to the shot, the ball caromed into the net under the crossbar.
The Ephs nearly doubled the advantage in the 35th minute, when a scrum in the Bowdoin penalty box nearly led to a Williams shot. With the keeper off her line, Bowdoin defender Sophia Lemmer held off a lurking Kristina Alvarado '19, as the Polar Bears cleared the danger.
Laino found her second tally of the day in the 37th minute. Georgia Lord '21 sent in a cross from the left wing. A defender headed the ball out, but it bounced to Laino inside the penalty area. She hit a first-time shot that found the twine to set the score at 2-0.
Bowdoin threatened as well, playing attackers through on two occasions. Midfielder Claire Dardinski found forward Kate Rusk-Kosa behind the defense early, but Eph defender Sarah Kelly '20 raced back to intercept. In the 43rd minute, Bowdoin forward Morgen Gallagher won the ball in Williams territory and had a clear line to the goal, but she was chased down by a defender.
Polar Bear midfielder Nikki Wilson played a key role for the visitors in the possession battle. Wilson won the ball in the offensive third on several occasions, and she had a shot go narrowly wide in the 19th minute.
Williams retained its two-goal lead at halftime. The Ephs held a 14-2 first-half shot advantage.
Bowdoin started the second half with more urgency, beating Williams to many 50-50 balls.
However, the Ephs found a third goal in the 57th minute. On a counterattack, Albaneze picked out midfielder Natalie Turner-Wyatt in space. Turner-Wyatt ran with the ball into the offensive third, drew a defender and slipped a through ball to Lu, who calmly dispatched a shot into the bottom-right corner.
Bowdoin forward Julia Patterson threatened to strike back for the visitors. She broke through into the penalty area and took the ball past multiple defenders. Patterson was unable to get a shot off, however, before the Ephs cleared for a corner.
Williams' fourth score came in the 65th minute. Lu's cross from the right wing was defended, but Turner-Wyatt volleyed the loose ball into the net to make it 4-0.
The score remained 4-0 Williams until the final whistle. The Ephs ended with a 22-6 shot advantage. Whitney Lincoln '20 made one save for the home side, while Stout stopped six shots for the visitors.
Williams managed to score in a variety of ways today, and head coach Michelyne Pinard said the team's confidence to take long shots was crucial, allowing the Ephs to squeeze space from the defense.
"I think we've always been able to score [from long shots], but we haven't had the confidence to take the shots from distance," Pinard said. "As soon as you start taking shots from distance, you get space behind the back four. Being dangerous in different ways allowed us more space to get into, and I thought we made great choices [with the ball]. It was fun to see so many people be a part of our attack."
She also stressed the importance of the team's depth, especially late in the season.
"The season is grueling," Pinard said. "It's eight weeks of at least two games a week, and that takes a toll on the body. Our depth allows us to give people breaks when they need them. Late in the season, every team has injuries. The fact that we can deal with our injuries so well because of our depth helps us in moments like these. I thought everyone who stepped in did a phenomenal job, and it showed."
Pinard added that Tuesday's loss provided the team with some additional energy.
"I thought we played well on Tuesday, but we just didn't quite take the shots we needed to take," Pinard said. "Today, we had a confidence in our ability to play and a little bit of an edge from being disappointed. The combination of those two things [helped us] today."
Williams moves onto the second round, in which it will face No. 7 seed Amherst. When the two teams played on Sept. 23, the Ephs edged the Mammoths by a score of 3-2. Amherst defeated No. 2 seed Connecticut College 1-0 this afternoon to set up the rematch.
"Amherst-Williams is always fun, and Amherst-Williams on Cole is something we train all year for," Pinard said. "We love that we get to see them. They're a dynamic, athletic team, and we haven't seen that style of play in quite some time. We're excited to see if we can handle them defensively and break them down offensively."
The second-round match will take place at 11 a.m. next Saturday on Cole Field.