WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — The skies grow darker faster, the gray replaces the blue, and the rain turns to snow.
That's when you know it's time for the Williams College women's soccer team to shine.
The Ephs have advanced to the Sweet 16 of the Div. III NCAA Tournament for the 7th straight season and conference rival Tufts, the top seed in the NESCAC Tournament who shocked No. 4 TCNJ in the second round of the NCAA tourney last weekend, stands in their way of a 6th straight Elite 8 appearance. Williams (10-5-3) will tangle with the Jumbos (14-3-2) in a 1:30 p.m. game at host Messiah College Saturday.
The winner of that rematch — Williams edged Tufts 2-1 on September 7th — will advance to face the winner of the Messiah vs. Trinity (Tx.) third round game Sunday at 1 p.m.
Williams advanced to the Messiah Sectional by advancing past No. 5 M.I.T. on the Engineers home field, 5-4 in penalties. Senior Alison Lu scored in the 86th minute to tie the game 1-1. The Ephs defeated Gettysburg 2-0 in the NCAA first round game a day earlier. Tufts defeated SUNY-Cortland 3-1 in a first round game played at TCNJ Saturday before ousting the Lions with two late second-half goal in Sunday's second round game.
Tufts hasn't defeated Williams since 2006, going 0-13-2 during that span. That streak includes the NESCAC Championship game in 2017, a 2-1 Ephs overtime win. The Jumbos are making their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2005. The Ephs are the two-time defending national champions, have won three of the last four NCAA Div. III titles and played in four of the last five NCAA championship games.
Williams is led by NESCAC Player of the Year Victoria Laino, a junior midfielder, She leads the team with 8 goals and 2 assists for 18 points. Seniors Nkem Iregbulem, a First Team All-NESCAC selection, and Sarah Kelly lead the Ephs' back line defense. The rest of the senior class includes forward Sarah Scire, midfielder Erika Jung, goalkeeper Whitney Lincoln and captain Liz Webber, who has missed the season with an injury.
Scoring wise the Ephs have seven players with between 5 and 7 points on the season. Junior Mikayla Kappes, sophomore Rain Condie and first year Claire Tolliver and Emma Lynch each have seven points, with Kappes and Lynch having scored three goals each. Sophomore Chelsea Taylor has been getting the starting nod recently in the goal for Williams, where she has a 1.30 goals against average and an .807 save percentage.
Tufts is led on the offensive end by a pair of juniors that earned First-Team All-Conference with Liz Reed and Sophie Lloyd each netting nine goals this season. Reed has added nine assists while Lloyd has dished out six for 27 and 24 points, respectively. Defensively, senior Sarah Maloney earned her second First Team All-Conference honor, anchoring the defensive effort.
This is Williams 13th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Over the past seven seasons, they have compiled a 26-3-4 record in tournament play.