GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The high-powered Hardin Simmons women's soccer team is Williams' opponent today in a national semifinal game slated for 1:30 p.m. EST at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro's Soccer Stadium. It will be the first meeting between the two institutions. Each program has won one national title, HSU in 2010, Williams in 2015.
The Cowgirls (23-0-0) come into today's semifinals having scored a nation-leading 110 goals in their 23 games while the Ephs (20-1-1) have allowed only 8 over their 22 games. HSU is currently ranked No. 5 in the nation while Williams is ranked No. 6. Williams has scored 55 goals in its 22 games while the Hardin Simmons defense has allowed only 7 in their 23 games.
"HSU is a very organized and disciplined team with incredibly dangerous attacking players and a knack for scoring off of corners," Williams' head coach Michelyne Pinard said. "We need to continue to defend with all 11 as high on the field as possible, to prevent them from getting restarts in our back half. When we win the ball, we'll be looking to transition quickly and attack dynamically using our width as much as possible."
Hardin Simmons played at William Smith in the sectional round, defeating Carnegie Mellon 1-0 in the Sweet 16 and then topping Ohio Northern 1-0 to advance to the Final Four. Williams was at home throughout the NCAA Tournament, blanking Cal Lutheran in the Sweet 16, 4-0, and then shutting out Johns Hopkins 3-0 to advance to its third Final Four in the past four seasons.
The Cowgirls are averaging 5.14 goals per game, tops in the nation. They are led by All-Americans Kristen Parish and Kenne Kessler. Kessler, a junior forward, set the school record and is sixth all-time in Division III history for goals in a single season with 37. She also has 10 assists. She was named the American Southwest Conference player of the year. Parrish, a senior defender, led the Cowgirl defense that has allowed just seven goals this season. She has scored 14 goals and has nine assists on the year and was named the ASC defensive player of the year for the second-straight year.
Senior forward Kami Jones is another dangerous threat. A 2016 All-American at forward, she has played in only 14 games this season due to injury, but has appeared in all seven postseason games for the Cowgirls and has one goal and two assists. She is the sixth all-time leading scorer in HSU history. Junior midfielder Josey Meyer has 1 goal and 24 assists this season, another top mark in the country (individual assists). Two freshmen have also made immediate impact on the offense. Rachel Bean and Elly Green have 8 goals each this season.
Junior goalkeeper Caitlin Christianson has started all 23 games, leading the way to 17 shutouts with her 0.33 GAA (8th nationally). She has an .867 save percentage. Senior Tiffany Van Hoose is a three-time 2nd team All-ASC defender.
Offensively, Williams is led by senior Third Team All-American Natasha Albaneze, who has 9 goals and a team-high 10 assists for 28 points. Sophomore Alison Lu has a team-high 11 goals and also has 5 assists for 27 points this season. Junior midfielder Natalie Turner-Wyatt has 22 points this season, 7 goals and 8 assists, with 12 points (3 goals, 6 assists) over the Ephs' 7 postseason games. Two first-years, Victoria Laino and Sydney Jones, have 5 goals and 11 points each this season. First Team All-New England midfielder Evan Gancedo has 4 goals and 9 points, while junior Kristina Alvarado and sophomore Sarah Scire have four goals as well.
Williams senior back Danielle Sim, a 2017 First Team All-American and the 2017 New England Small College Athletic Conference Player of the Year anchors a back that has allowed only 8 goals through 22 games this season. Junior goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill Is 19-0-1 this season with a 0.37 goals against average and an .877 save percentage. She has compiled a 38-1-3 (.940 pct.) record over her three seasons at Williams.
The Ephs current senior class — Jacqueline Simeone, Danielle Sim, Evan Gancedo, Natasha Albaneze, Kate Sands and Hanna Kaeser have compiled a four-year mark of 80-5-6 at Williams, a .912 winning percentage. They are the first class at Williams to win 80 games in a four-year span, breaking the mark of 74 wins set by the 2016 seniors.
This is the third 20-win season in the history of the women's soccer program at Williams, and these seniors have played a role in all three (2014, 2015, 2017). They are the first class to advance as far as the NCAA Div. III Tournament quarterfinals all four years and the first to advance to three Final Fours.