Wesleyan took an early two-goal lead and withheld a strong Williams second half on Saturday in Middletown, Conn., securing the Cardinals' first win over the Ephs since 1982.
The Cardinals went ahead on a 15th-minute penalty kick, which co-captain midfielder Emily Ribatt converted. The hosts found a second goal less than 10 minutes later, when substitute forward Dani Milovanov volleyed in a cross from co-captain defender Julia Meehan. In a resurgent second half, No. 1 women's soccer (2–1–0, 2–1–0 in the NESCAC) clawed back a goal on a Victoria Laino '21 free kick, but Wesleyan (2–1–0, 1–1–0 in the NESCAC) defended its 2-1 lead to the final whistle.
"Thus far this season, we have been focused playing pretty soccer and trying to execute perfectly," head coach Michelyne Pinard said after the game. "You can't beat a very good team like Wesleyan by trying to be good, but rather you have to try to win."
Wesleyan moved the ball effectively in the first half, with midfielder Andi Wiley and forward Grace Devanny linking up well on the right side. Cardinal forwards Gianna Argento and Audrey Lavey also used their speed to press when the Ephs tried to build from the back.
Wiley had the first real chance of the game from a free kick on the right edge of the box, but Williams goalkeeper Whitney Lincoln '20 did well to save the hard shot. Just a minute later, though, Lavey was fouled in the box, and Ribatt stepped up to score from the spot. Meehan's inviting cross from the right touchline set up Milovanov for another score to make it 2-0 Wesleyan after 23 minutes played. Wesleyan outshot Williams 6-3 in the first half.
Williams came out of halftime strong. The Ephs registered 15 shots in the final 45 minutes, but Cardinal goalkeeper Sarah Hammond made 6 saves to keep the hosts ahead.
"There is a difference [between trying to play well and trying to win], and that was the difference between the first and second half," Pinard said. "We were trying to win the game in the 2nd half."
As the Ephs looked for their first goal, they tried crossing the ball into the box for Claire Tolliver '23, who won several headers but was unable to beat Hammond.
Laino gave Williams a glimmer of hope with just over 4 minutes left. Forward Alison Lu '20 was fouled at the edge of the box, and Laino powered a shot past Hammond at the near post to cut the deficit to one.
In the dying embers of the game, the Ephs sent players forward in numbers. Lu won the ball in the attacking third with a minute left, and Aspen Pierson '21 found herself in some favorable attacking positions. In the final few seconds, Liz Girvan '22 sent a promising corner kick into the box, but Wesleyan defended to seal a memorable victory.
"Today was a good reminder that we need to compete every moment," Pinard said. "Wesleyan is a very good team, they deserved this win today. I'm looking forward to seeing how our team responds to this very disappointing result."
It was the Cardinals' first win over the Ephs in 37 years, after the Ephs had gone without a loss in the pair's 39 previous games (37–0–2). The all-time series stands at 38–5–2 in Williams' favor.
Williams travels to face Springfield on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Springfield, Mass.