No. 6 women's soccer defeats No. 11 Johns Hopkins 3-0, advances to Final Four

No. 6 women's soccer defeats No. 11 Johns Hopkins 3-0, advances to Final Four

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – No. 6 Williams women's soccer (20–1–1, 8–1–1 in the NESCAC) defeated Johns Hopkins (18–3–3, 10–0–0 in the Centennial Conference) 3-0 this afternoon on Cole Field in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tournament.

With a ticket to the Final Four on the line and over 400 spectators in attendance on a cold, damp and windy Cole Field, the game was passionately contested from the opening kickoff. Play never lacked physicality as it contained some crunching tackles over the course of the 90 minutes.

Early on, both teams took advantage of space on the wings, creating chances by making runs along the touchline and crossing to forwards in the penalty area. Williams defender Sarah Scire '20 and Johns Hopkins forward Bailey Monaco each saw significant time on the ball in the opening minutes.

The Ephs had an opportunity in the seventh minute. From the left wing, Natasha Albaneze '18 sent a cross to Natalie Turner-Wyatt '19, but Turner-Wyatt headed wide from deep in the box.

Turner-Wyatt opened the scoring for Williams in the 17th minute. Tri-captain defender Jacqueline Simeone '18 put a shot on target from distance, and Blue Jay goalkeeper Bess Kitzmiller deflected the ball off the crossbar. Turner-Wyatt got to the rebound and knocked it into the net, giving the Ephs a 1-0 lead.

Johns Hopkins began to dominate possession late in the half, bringing the Williams defenders under pressure. The Blue Jays attempted to play forwards Riley O'Toole and Michelle Santangelo through with their passes, but Eph defenders Sarah Kelly '20, Liz Webber '20 and tri-captain Danielle Sim '18 made several key tackles and interceptions.

In the 38th minute, Blue Jay midfielder Insa Mannstadt set up forward Maddy Rocks with a dangerous shot inside the penalty area, but Eph goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill made the save following a deflection.

Williams maintained a 1-0 advantage going into halftime, although Johns Hopkins led 9-5 in shots at the break. Barnhill had two saves in the period, while Kitzmiller had one.

The home side threatened in the 53rd minute. Scire beat her defender and sent a cross in from the left wing, but the ball drifted past Albaneze. Georgia Lord '21 controlled the ball and set up Victoria Laino '21 with a shot. Laino sent in a low, hard drive, but Kitzmiller saved.

The Ephs doubled their lead in the 54th minute. Scire picked out Turner-Wyatt at the left edge of the box, and Turner-Wyatt slipped a pass through to Albaneze. One-on-one, Albaneze finished calmly into the bottom-right corner.

Albaneze found the net again four minutes later. Turner-Wyatt played a ball to Albaneze at the right edge of the box, and Albaneze lofted a one-time shot over the keeper and inside the far post. Albaneze's sixth goal in her past five contests put Williams up 3-0.

Johns Hopkins, however, went on the attack and put Williams under duress. In the 64th minute, Blue Jay defender Hallie Horvath's corner kick bounced to O'Toole, forced a close-range save from Barnhill.

Horvath set up midfielder Carly Lupton-Smith for a chance in the 70th minute. Horvath's cross connected with Lupton-Smith in the box, and Lupton-Smith sent a shot en route to the bottom-right corner. Eph defender Maddy Feeney '19, however, was in position to block the attempt.

The visitors earned a penalty kick in the 72nd minute after Monaco was taken down in the box. Santangelo took the spot kick, but her shot missed wide of the post.

Midfielder Maggie Coulson nearly put Johns Hopkins on the board in the 77th minute. Santangelo laid the ball off for Coulson in the box, and Coulson hit a shot that grazed off Barnhill's fingertips and bounced off the right post.

In the 89th minute, Monaco chased down a long ball, but Barnhill rushed off her line to cut off Monaco's angle. Midfielder Alexandra Damron had a follow-up shot blocked. 

Despite the late attacking surge from the Blue Jays, the game finished 3-0 in the Ephs' favor. Johns Hopkins finished with a 19-14 edge in shots. Barnhill made a season-high eight saves – six in the second half – and Kitzmiller had six stops.

While the Ephs came away with the victory, Johns Hopkins gave the Williams defenders one of their toughest tests of the season.

"Johns Hopkins brought out a side of us we haven't really seen yet," Simeone said. "They were breathing down our backs the entire 90 minutes, and we proved that we can play with pressure and that when we need to sprint back, we can. We were just resilient in those moments."

"What we proved out there is that our best soccer is when we're able to string together passes when we can but battle when we have to," head coach Michelyne Pinard said. "I'm so proud that we were willing and able to commit to both sides of the ball today.

"[The Blue Jays are] the best team we've seen, and they put us under a ton of pressure. We were uncomfortable at times, and this was probably the strangest 3-0 game I've ever been a part of. We were hanging on, and sometimes you have to get lucky."

Today's game marked the 80th win for the senior class of Albaneze, Sim, Simeone, tri-captain Evan Gancedo '18, Hanna Kaeser '18 and Kate Sands '18 – a program record. The current senior class is also the first in school history to have made the NCAA quarterfinals in all four seasons.

"I couldn't be more proud," Pinard said. "This senior class began with an end in sight. They saw what this team is capable of, and they worked every day to create this. I'm so proud of them and so happy for them not only for just doing what we've done on the field but also the sense of purpose and togetherness they've created."

Pinard feels that the team's best soccer lies ahead.

"I think we played great, but what I'm most excited about is that I think this team has another level in us," she said. "We can't wait to get to North Carolina and show that."

"The team has just been firing on all cylinders," Albaneze added. "We've been moving dynamically and attacking well. It's been a team effort, and we're peaking at the right time."

"This is definitely a special group," Simeone said. "We're a team in all facets of what it takes to comprise this goal and this mission we've created. Today was one of the best feelings I've ever felt. There are no words to explain how proud of I am of this group of girls … This is the best team I've ever played on."

Advancing to the Final Four for the third time in the last four years, Williams is set to face No. 3 Hardin-Simmons in the NCAA semifinals on Dec. 1 in Greensboro, N.C.