|Olivia Barnhill '19|
WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — How does a team move on from a national championship season?
By not focusing on the result as much as the process. By not finding joy in the results but rather in your teammates.
That is Williams College women's soccer head coach Michelyne Pinard's approach. Her Ephs are coming off a second national title in three years, a third Div. III Final Four appearance in four seasons and 61 wins in their past 69 games (an .884 win percentage).
"I think the team is super excited about what we did last year, but also at the same time super excited about the challenges that lie before us," Pinard said. "My hope is we take a smart, tactical approach, string a lot of passes together and still play tough, resilient soccer."
Pinard will have eight seniors on her 2018 roster, including goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill, Natalie Turner-Wyatt, Kristina Alvarado, Ana Alvarenga, Sarah Hollinger, Lauren Brown, Madison Feeney and Dawn Penso. Barnhill, Hollinger and Brown will act as tri-captains for the Ephs this season. Alvarado notched 4 goals and an assist last season while Feeney helped stabalize the Ephs' back and Brown the midfield.
Barnhill finished last season 21-0-1 with a 0.33 goals against average and an .891 save percentage. Turner-Wyatt will be the top scorer returning to the Ephs after registering 7 goals and 9 assists for 23 points.
"I think the collective leadership of our senior class is going to be incredibly helpful," Pinard said. "The joy, fire and enthusiasm of that class will be infectious and allow this group to mesh together and that will go a long way to helping us transition from last year to this year."
That transition will present its own challenges, as Williams will look different this fall without All-Americans Danielle Sim and Natasha Albaneze. Sim was the Div. III National Player of the Year in 2017, while Albaneze led the Ephs in scoring with 30 points (10 goals, 10 assists). In addition, field general Evan Gancedo also graduated, and junior Alison Lu, who topped the team with 12 goals and had 29 points, was forced to retire due to an injury.
|Lauren Brown '19|
Still, with the aforementioned strong senior class and a junior group consisting of Sarah Scire (4 g., 3a., 11 points), Sarah Kelly, Nkem Iregbulem, Liz Webber, Erika Jung, Campbell Day and keeper Whitney Lincoln, Pinard has much remaining from which to mold the Ephs new shape. Several sophomore appear poised to take on even more impactful roles. Victoria Laino and Sydney Jones each had 5 goals and an assist in 2017. Aspen Pierson, Georgia Lord and Ilana Albert all saw critical time on the pitch as well.
|Sarah Hollinger '19|
"There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that need to come together," Pinard said. "That will take some time. But I believe the returning group is on the same page as far as how we will go about doing that."
A part of that Pinard puzzle will also be a first-year class of five that is comprised of Rain Condie, Liz Girvan, Brianna Binder, Maria Chapman and Chelsea Taylor. Pinard has never been afraid to thrust a first year into a critical role as evidenced by the extent to which the sophomore class helped the Ephs title' run one year ago. Still, there is much to be learned as that group attempts to mesh with the returners.
"In general, we always expect the first years to contribute in creating our team culture," Pinard stated. "This group has the potential to be impactful, but time will tell just how impactful that is."
The Ephs will open the 2018 season Wednesday with a conference game slated to begin at 4 p.m. on the road against Hamilton. The NESCAC has one of the deeper conferences in the country, and so the challenges begin early and go often for the Ephs. Non-conference games vs. Skidmore, Springfield, Castleton University, Farmingdale State and M.I.T. should prove formidable as well.