WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – No. 6 Williams women's soccer (19–1–1, 8–1–1 in the NESCAC) defeated Cal Lutheran 4-0 today on Cole Field in the NCAA Round of 16.
The Ephs found themselves with an early possession advantage, gaining space and territory with their passing and movement. Early in the half, Sarah Scire '20 energized the crowd with skilled dribbling along the left touch line.
Scire turned past her defender in the third minute and ran free toward the end line. She sent in a cross, but Cal Lutheran defender Olivia Levya headed the ball away.
Defender Liz Webber '20 opened the scoring for the Ephs in the 15th minute. From a corner kick, tri-captain defender Jacqueline Simeone '18 lofted a ball toward the back post, and Webber rose above a crowd of player to head the ball into the net.
In the 20th minute, Scire started a move when she beat her defender on the left wing. She picked out Alison Lu '20 in the penalty area, and Lu laid the ball off to Victoria Laino '21. Laino hit a hard shot that bounced off the left goal post and out.
Williams forward Sydney Jones '21 had a chance in the 32nd minute. On a through ball, Jones sealed out her marker and found herself past the back line. One-on-one, however, Cal Lutheran goalkeeper Gabby Flores made the save.
The Regals won a dangerously-positioned free kick in the 36th minute. Forward Bri Pinal sent a cross in, but Eph defender Maddy Feeney '19 headed the ball out.
The first half finished with Williams up 1-0 despite a 17-1 shot advantage. Flores stopped five shots in the period for Cal Lutheran.
In the 48th minute, Lu doubled the home side's advantage. She won the ball in the penalty area and slotted her shot past the keeper.
Lu has now scored in six of her last seven games, and her 12 goals on the year lead the Ephs.
On the other end of the pitch, defender Trinity Martinez recorded Cal Lutheran's first shot of the day. From the right side of the box, Martinez had a go at the near post, but Eph goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill '19 saved.
Regal forward Kali Youngdahl nearly snuck behind the back line in the 56th minute. Youngdahl got a touch on a long ball played to her, but Webber recovered to make the tackle.
The Ephs struck for a third goal in the 62nd minute. Laino had a shot blocked in the box, and forward Kristina Alvarado '19 collected the rebound. Alvarado's shot deflected into the net off a Regal defender to bring the score to 3-0.
Forward Natasha Albaneze '18 added Williams' fourth and final goal in the 68th minute. Defender Sarah Kelly '20 sent a cross in from the left wing, and Alvarado headed the ball on to Albaneze, who tapped a shot into the net for her fourth goal in as many games.
Cal Lutheran had its best chance of the day in the 82nd minute. Pinal streaked down the right side, got past a defender and sent a sharp-angle attempt toward the net. Barnhill, however, deflected the shot out for a corner. Pinal sent a cross in from the set piece, but Barnhill made the catch.
The score at full time was 4-0 in the Ephs' favor. Williams finished with a 25-10 shot advantage. Flores made six saves for the Regals, while Barnhill had two for the Ephs.
Head coach Michelyne Pinard said she feels her team is peaking at the right time.
"We're really starting to put all the pieces together – that's what November is for," Pinard said. "I feel like my job is to step back and let them run with it."
She attributed much of the team's attacking success to its ball movement and depth.
"Teams at this point are going to be really organized, and Cal Lutheran certainly was," she said. "The benefit of our ball movement and our depth is that it's hard to play against that for 90 minutes. The wear-and-tear of the game allows us to get behind later in the second half, and it certainly helped today."
Pinard also stressed the importance of the Ephs' home-field advantage.
"We love playing on Cole Field," she said. "It's hugely helpful."
Williams meets No. 11 Johns Hopkins tomorrow at 1 p.m. on Cole Field for a spot in the Final Four.