Williams men’s soccer averted disaster this past Wednesday on Cole Field by narrowly defeating Union College 1-0. Union is considered one of the weaker teams on the Williams schedule, and the tight game revoked haunting memories of the loss against Clark University last year.
From the opening whistle, the Ephs controlled the flow of play, out-shooting their opponents 23-3. Union made no attempt to conceal their game strategy, which was to compress the defense with 11 players and hope for a goal. For the most part this plan proved effective, although it allowed the Ephs to dominate possession of the ball.
Eph wingers Jason Stojkovic ’00 and Ted Giannacopolous ’02 littered the Union goal mouth in the first half with dangerous crosses. But Union’s style of crowding the goal area confounded the Eph forwards, who had difficulty capitalizing their opportunities.
At the 23-minute mark, Eph midfielder and captain Dan Pozen ’99 gave Williams the lead. Following a cross into the Union box by Stojkovic, the ball was headed out to Pozen, who was waiting patiently just outside the 18-yard box. Pozen settled the ball and struck it hard at goal. The Union goalkeeper seemed in good position, but the ball deflected off Union sweeper David Lozano and fell into the unprotected corner of the net.
Williams Head Coach Mike Russo was not pleased with his team’s performance in the first half. “This could be another Clark,” warned Russo to his players at halftime. Determined to prove otherwise, an inspired Williams team took the field for the second half.
Once again, however, the Ephs could not finish despite a plethora of near-miss opportunities. Russo, frustrated with the Eph’s squandered chances, substituted furiously in search of the right combination of players in the attack. The entrance of the talented Eph reserves boosted the level of play considerably but could not widen the scoring margin.
The one highlight of the otherwise irksome match was the solid Eph defense, which extended their streak of shutout games to two. Center-backs Matt Magiera ’00 and Mark Williams ’02 proved too quick for the Union forwards while defender Nick Swan ’99 contributed to the shutout with intelligent play and several hard tackles. Goalkeeper Ryan Spicer ’01, in his first outing of the season, also played well, making several key saves late in the match.
With the victory, Williams now boasts a 3-0 record heading into today’s crucial match against Middlebury. Williams will be seeking revenge following last year’s heartbreaking overtime loss to the Panthers.
The match will take place at 4:00 p.m. on Cole Field.