No. 6 women's soccer defeats Lesley 2-0 to advance to second round of NCAAs

Natasha Albaneze '18
Natasha Albaneze '18

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – No. 6 Williams women's soccer (17–1–1, 8–1–1 in the NESCAC) defeated Lesley 2-0 this afternoon on Cole Field in the first round of the NCAA tournament. 

With over 100 fans in attendance, the NESCAC champion Ephs hosted the NECC-winning Lynx.

Williams enjoyed long spells of possession in the first half, but Lesley kept the home side off the scoreboard. Lynx defenders blocked several Eph crosses to prevent scoring opportunities. Williams attackers found space with crisp one-two passing and deft dribbling but could not produce a goal before halftime. 

The Ephs saw a chance in the 10th minute, when tri-captain Jacqueline Simeone '18 curled a ball past the Lynx back line. The delivery drifted just out of the reach of a lunging Natalie Turner-Wyatt '19.

Lesley threatened on the counterattack in the 24th minute. Midfielder Jordan Mitchell found space to dribble, but Sarah Kelly '20 and tri-captain Danielle Sim '18 tracked back to intervene.

In the 25th minute, Eph forward Natasha Albaneze '18 volleyed a hard shot on goal from 20 yards out. Lynx goalkeeper Lilly Donovan, who entered the game with a .968 save percentage and had allowed just 0.11 goals against average, caught the attempt.

Forward Sydney Jones '21 had a chance for Williams near the end of the half. Jones lost her marker on a run into the box from the left wing, but her shot went wide of the far post.

The game was scoreless at halftime. Williams recorded nine shots in the period. Donovan had three saves, while Eph goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill '19 did not face a shot.

Williams forward Alison Lu '20 started the scoring shortly after halftime. In the 47th minute, Lu won the ball deep in the Lesley penalty area. From the left side of the box, she dribbled in toward the goal and powered a shot inside the near post to put the Ephs up 1-0.

Minutes later, tri-captain Evan Gancedo '18 chipped a through ball for Albaneze. From the right wing, Albaneze sent a cross in to Turner-Wyatt, whose shot went wide.

Albaneze scored the Ephs' second goal in the 53rd minute. Gancedo played the ball into the box for Lu, who found Turner-Wyatt in space on the left wing. Turner-Wyatt sent a low cross through the box, and Albaneze tapped it in at the back post. 

An offside call in the 61st minute negated what would have been a third Williams goal. Albaneze connected with Turner-Wyatt on a cross, and Turner-Wyatt rounded the keeper, but the flag was up.

Lesley had a chance in the 67th minute, when midfielder Karlie Rubin made a long run into Williams territory and won a corner kick. Following Rubin's delivery from the set piece, midfielder McKenna Straube sent a shot wide.

The scoreline remained 2-0 in the Ephs' favor at the final whistle. Williams finished with a 15-2 edge in shots. Donovan totaled five saves in the contest.

Difficult playing conditions limited attacking success in the first half, but the Ephs adapted in the second half to take the victory.

"The surface made it challenging to get ahold of the ball," head coach Michelyne Pinard said. "It took us a little time to find our groove, but in the second half we were finding the space well. [The Lynx] kept making adjustments that we had to solve. I would have liked to do that a little more quickly, but we got the result, and we're moving on."

Going forward, Pinard said she would like to see the team improve its pace of play.

"We just need to play more quickly," she said. "We need to find our options more quickly. The faster we play, the better we are. We need to play at that pace we played at in the second half for 90 minutes."

Williams returns to Cole Field tomorrow at 1 p.m. to face Brandeis in the second round.