No. 6 women's soccer prevails 3-0 over Brandeis, continues NCAA tournament run

No. 6 women's soccer prevails 3-0 over Brandeis, continues NCAA tournament run

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – No. 6 Williams women's soccer (18–1–1, 8–1–1 in the NESCAC) prevailed 3-0 over Brandeis (12–5–4, 2–3–2 in the UAA) this afternoon on Cole Field in the second round of the NCAA tournament. 

Brandeis began the game with a prolonged spell of possession on the left wing. The Judges kept the ball under pressure, but Williams defender Liz Webber '20 blocked a cross from Brandeis midfielder Haliana Burhans.

In the ninth minute, the Judges saw the first scoring chance of the day. Forward Sasha Sunday sent in a corner kick, and forward Julia Matson rose to head the ball. Matson's shot, however, went over the crossbar.

The Ephs got on the board in the 11th minute. On the right wing, forward Natasha Albaneze '20 controlled the ball off a throw-in and turned past her defender. Running toward the end line, Albaneze sent a soaring ball into the penalty area. The ball sailed over the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Frankie Pinto and into the top-left corner.

With the one-goal lead, Williams continued to attack. In the 19th minute, a long shot by Victoria Laino '21 drew a save from Pinto. However, the ball bounced out to Georgia Lord '21. Lord nearly put the rebound in, but her shot went wide.

Williams had a goal called back for offside in the 24th minute. Sarah Scire '20 played a splendid cross for Natalie Turner-Wyatt '19. Turner-Wyatt volleyed the ball into the bottom-left corner, but the referee blew for offside.

In the 38th minute, Brandeis forward Sam Volpe forced a stop from Williams goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill '19 on a shot from the edge of the box. Defender Katelyn Long '19 deflected the attempt, and Barnhill saved comfortably.

The score remained 1-0 until halftime. Williams had a 14-3 shot advantage in the period. Pinto made three saves for the Judges, while Barnhill had one for the Ephs.

Williams had a series of chances in the 56th minute. Turner-Wyatt found space to shoot in the box, but Pinto deflected her shot out for a corner kick. Webber won a header on Albaneze's delivery from the set piece. Webber's shot, however, was blocked in front of the goal. The Ephs won a free kick shortly thereafter, and from 30 yards out, Laino curled a shot wide of the near post.

In the 61st minute, Turner-Wyatt and Scire each had chances during a scrum in the box. After a corner kick from Lord bounced in front of the goal, Turner-Wyatt had a shot that was cleared off the line. Scire hit a hard follow-up try, but Pinto saved.

The home side doubled its lead in the 64th minute. Midfielder Aspen Pierson '21 feinted a defender and took a shot from distance. Pinto made the save, but the rebound bounced loose in the box. Forward Sydney Jones '21 raced in and knocked the ball into the net to make it 2-0 Ephs.

Brandeis began to get forward late in the second half. In the 79th minute, the Judges played a through ball for Willa Molho, but Eph tri-captain defender Danielle Sim '18 intercepted. Volpe curled a shot on goal in the 87th minute, forcing Barnhill to save.

The visitors had their best chance of the game in the 88th minute. Forward Samantha Schwartz ran onto a ball past Williams' back line and broke free into the box. She sent a shot toward the far post, but Barnhill got a hand on the ball and deflected it over the end line.

The Ephs added a third goal in the final minute of the game. From the edge of the box, Lord ripped a shot toward goal. Pinto reached the ball but could only tip it off the crossbar. The rebound caromed straight to Jones, who tapped it in for her second goal of the day.

After 90 minutes, the final score stood at 3-0 in Williams' favor. The Ephs finished with a 29-5 edge in shots. Pinto totaled seven saves, and Barnhill made three stops.

Williams moves onto the third round, in which it will face the winner of Cal Lutheran and Pacific Lutheran, who play tonight at 10 p.m.

After three straight games in which it was held scoreless in the first half, Williams broke through after just 10:58 into today's game.

"Having that early goal definitely helped us," Albaneze said after the game. "It was definitely a goal of ours to press from the start and try to get on the board as quickly as possible." 

"Any time we can start at a higher pace, we're doing ourselves a favor," head coach Michelyne Pinard said. "We want to play at a higher pace in general, and we want to get behind sooner."

The Ephs dominated possession throughout the game, and Pinard praised the team's attacking play.

"I was pleased with how we were moving off the ball and creating separation," she said. "That allowed us to have a lot of opportunities through the middle third and to get in behind. I couldn't be more pleased with our effort all around … today against a good team."

"I'm always so amazed to watch our team," Sim said. "[The attackers] are all so creative. They have great touches and great vision – they find passes that I didn't even know were available."

Pinard added that today's performance was an improvement over the team's recent games.

"We're always trying to play our best soccer in November," she said. "We had a great end of October, and our November hadn't been what we wanted, but today was a great start."

The Ephs' third-round match will be played next Saturday, with the time and place yet to be determined.