WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – With rivals Williams and Amherst level at 1-1 late in the second half, Alison Lu '20 found herself with a golden opportunity and made no mistake.
"That was a special moment for many reasons," said head coach Michelyne Pinard. "Obviously, it was a game-winning goal. But seeing Alison Lu back and doing what she does best – which is score goals and create chances – and to do that in front of alums who have seen her magic in the past was pretty special."
Lu's goal in the 70th minute – her first goal since returning from a year-long injury layoff – made the difference in a physical and fast-paced match between Williams (4–2–1/3–2–0 in the NESCAC) and archrival No. 24 Amherst (5–2–0/2–2–0 in the NESCAC) Saturday on Cole Field. It was a rebound victory for the Ephs, who notched their first conference victory since Sept. 7.
"I think our team executed as well as we have this year, and that felt really great all around," Pinard said. "We struggled through September, and we thought we had a great week of preparation, and we thought we were in a good space mentally coming into this… I thought we did a really good job reading offensively and defensively, and moving off the ball, so I think that was a big step in the right direction."
The Ephs controlled possession for most of the first half, totaling 12 shots in the period to Amherst's 3.
Williams midfielder Mikayla Kappes '21 started the scoring in the 33rd minute. Aspen Pierson '21 sent a long ball into the box, finding Victoria Laino '21. Laino tapped it on to Kappes, who took a touch before thundering in a volley from close range.
The Ephs took a 1-0 lead into halftime, but the Mammoths went on the attack after the restart. The visitors found their equalizer in the 58th minute. After a Williams defender made a tackle, the ball bounced out to Amherst first-year Sophia Fikke, who with her left foot hit a first-time shot that snuck inside the far post. It was the first collegiate goal for Fikke, who leads Amherst with 5 assists on the year.
Lu put the Ephs back ahead in the 69th minute. She used her strength to seal off a defender and neatly slotted her finish inside the far post. Lu, who led the Ephs with 12 goals in their 2017 national title-winning season, ran straight to the sidelines, where she was greeted by exuberant fans.
Inside the final 10 minutes, Amherst had success finding senior defender Erin McClave on set pieces, but her header off Fikke's corner in the 81st minute sailed high. Mammoth forward Isabel Stern had a chance in the final minute, but Eph goalkeeper Whitney Lincoln '20 caught a hard shot cleanly.
The final whistle blew with the score at 2-1 Williams. Shots finished 20-9 in the Ephs' favor. Amherst goalkeeper Antonia Tammaro totaled 5 saves, while Lincoln had 4 for Williams.
"I think Amherst always brings out the best in us, and certainly being back on Cole Field also brings out the best in us," Pinard said. "And I think we've been hugely disappointing with we're we've been. So I think the combination of those three factors were helpful today."
Williams will be back on Cole Field on Sunday as they take on No. 21 Connecticut College (6–1–0/3–1–0 in the NESCAC) at noon.