GRANTHAM, Pa. — Michelyne Pinard, who concluded her 18-year tenure as head coach of women's soccer on Sunday, says she is "leaving content" after a season that illustrated the core values Pinard has spent the past two decades working to instill.
"Last month, going from losing six games in six weeks, compared to six games in six years, most teams would have folded," Pinard said at a press conference after No. 24 Williams (11–5–4/6–3–1 in the NESCAC) fell to No. 1 Messiah (21–1–2/7–0–1 in the MAC Commonwealth) in a penalty shootout in the Elite Eight. "The fact that this team didn't means the world to me... I think this year showed that it was because our values were in the right place, and we stuck to those. I think that's the reason we were able to turn the season around."
Reflecting on her career, which has included a 268–51–38 record (good for a .751 winning percentage), eight NESCAC titles and three national championships, Pinard recalled not the trophies but the people and the core values that shaped the women's soccer program. Her interview is included in the highlight video below.
"I'm so grateful — I'm sad it's over, really sad it's over, but so grateful for all the amazing people I've gotten to meet and work with, all the amazing women I've gotten to watch grow and thrive," she said. "I just feel like this has been the most amazing experience... I'm leaving content, so thank you."
Williams jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but Messiah came back in the second half, scoring two goals in a span of 1:57 to tie the match. In the penalty shootout, Messiah goalkeeper Lydia Ewing made 2 saves to take the Falcons through to the Final Four.
A strong wind blowing in the direction of Messiah's goal in the first half and toward Williams' goal in the second influenced play throughout the match.
"The wind was a huge factor," Pinard said. "It was worth two goals a half — two for each team, four total."
In the first half, the two teams put on a thrilling passing display, but it was Williams that struck first. Midfielder Georgia Lord '21 gave Williams the lead just three minutes into the match, curling a ball into the top-right corner from the left wing.
Despite strong midfield play, Messiah managed just 1 shot in the period, while Williams had 10 shots.
Forward Claire Tolliver '23 troubled Messiah defenders with her speed throughout the half, and she doubled the Eph lead in the 26th minute. Tolliver received a pass around the midfield line and darted forward with the ball. Cutting to her right, Tolliver sent a rocket of a shot into the top-right corner to make it 2-0.
Messiah went on the attack after halftime. Falcon midfielder Megan Mansfield found forward Abby Monko with a through ball in the 51st minute. One-on-one, Monko rounded the goalkeeper but was unable to angle a shot on net.
Forward Ellie Lengacher got the Falcons on the scoreboard in the 69th minute, placing a shot into the bottom-right corner from close range after receiving a pass from McKenzie Swartley.
Less than two minutes later, Messiah tied it up when Maddie Kohl volleyed home a cross by Shelby Burger.
The Ephs threatened twice in extra time. In the 99th minute, defender Maria Chapman '22 sent a shot toward the top-left corner, but Monko headed the ball off the goal line. Lord had a late one-on-one opportunity, running onto a pass from Sarah Scire '20, but Ewing made a key stop. Shots finished 20-9 in the Ephs' favor at the end of regulation.
Ewing made saves in the second and third rounds of the penalty shootout to give Messiah the advantage. But the Falcons' third penalty taker missed, and goalkeeper Leyla Kamshad '23 guessed right in the fourth round to keep the Ephs alive. Williams' final attempt, however, bounced off the crossbar and out, giving Messiah a 3-2 victory in the shootout.
Graduating for the Ephs are seven seniors: goalkeeper Whitney Lincoln '20, defender Sarah Kelly '20, tri-captain defender Liz Webber '20, tri-captain midfielder Erika Jung '20, tri-captain midfielder Sarah Scire '20, defender Nkem Iregbulem '20 and forward Alison Lu '20.
Pinard, who will become athletic director at the Thacher School next year, expressed nothing but gratitude in her postgame press conference, thanking her colleagues, coaches, alums and family.
"I'm proud to be part of the Williams athletic department, and there are so many things to be grateful for and thankful for — not only for the season but just my entire career," she said.
Players expressed gratitude for Pinard's leadership.
"Michelyne has been simply one of the most influential leaders and mentors I've ever had," midfielder Ilana Albert '21 said. "Through her teaching, this team is about so much more than just soccer. She teaches us how to create a group that respects, loves, and fights for one another. Her legacy at Williams women's soccer is more than trophies; it is the creation of a family of winners and fighters."
"One of the greatest coaches that I have had the privilege to play for," Kristi Kirshe '17 wrote on Twitter. "Beyond thankful for all you have done for this program."
Those who have followed Pinard's career at Williams say they will remember her as one of the best coaches to come through the school.
"Of all the great Berkshire County high school and college coaches who have patrolled sidelines or sat in dugouts, Williams College women's soccer coach Michelyne Pinard might be first among equals," longtime Berkshire Eagle sportswriter Howard Herman wrote earlier this year. "If she doesn't make it into the United Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame at some point, there is no justice."
"She has set a high standard of excellence and created a fellowship of women soccer players at Williams who will remember their time here fondly," Athletic Director Lisa Melendy said in July. "I am hopeful others can learn from the example she set about what is possible in intercollegiate athletics when the students are put at the center of the enterprise and they are committed to pursuing excellence in all areas of their lives. That is the promise of college athletics, and Michelyne delivered on that promise."