Though it was by no means easy, the Women’s Soccer team improved on last year’s trip to the NCAA Round of Sixteen and advanced to the Elite Eight by defeating Wellesley 1-0 on Sunday.
The win moved their record to 14-1-1 for the season, and set up a national quarterfinal match with Nazareth College this Saturday.
Jill Caterer ’00 scored the lone goal of the game early in the second half on a shot from the left side that curved across the face of the goal and ended up in the right corner of the net.
The senior striker took advantage of a mistake by the Wellesley defense, intercepting a pass just outside the box. This was definitely a game where the mistakes made on both sides were few and far between.
Williams was looking for any break it could get. Head Coach Lisa Melendy identified part of the team’s plan, saying “we were looking to serve the ball up quickly, get some quick restarts, and try to find the gaps in their defense.”
Williams played the first half very aggressively up front, knowing that its own defense, which allowed no corner kicks for the game, would be solid.
The defensive unit, comprising co-captain Ann Brophy ’00, Meghan Cavanaugh ’00, Katie O’Boyle ’01 and Trisha Barbosa ’03, played excellently, particularly during the final 40 minutes of the game as Wellesley tried desperately to get the equalizer.
While the first half was largely devoid of any serious scoring chances, the second half was decidedly more intense for the Wellesley goalie. The Ephs had many great looks at the goal. On several occasions, shots bounced off Wellesley defenders in front, and could not be put in.
Nonetheless, Williams kept the ball on the offensive end for majority of the second half, thanks to a swarming defensive unit, as well as very active midfielders that did not give the Wellesley attack any time or room to operate.
Williams played its first game of the NCAA tournament on Saturday against Bowdoin, which had beaten Framingham State on Wednesday. It won this defensive battle 1-0 as well. The lone goal was scored by Stacy Starner ’03 with 1:34 left in the game.
The game was a struggle on offense for both sides for most of the game, since both defenses crippled the opposing attacks with great success. With about 20 minutes to go in the game, however, the tide turned.
The Williams offense intensified the pressure for the final stretch of the game. First, in the 20th minute, Katie Bolduc ’01 fired a rocket that seemed destined for the back of the net, but the Bowdoin goalkeeper made a very tough save.
Then, just minutes later, an Eph corner kick floated past the Bowdoin defense to midfielder CC Ciafone ’02, whose shot from close range was stopped by a well-placed Polar Bear. The ricochet came to Bolduc in front, and her point blank shot was again saved by the Bowdoin goalie.
The game winner by Starner came off a beautiful lead pass from Cameron Walker ’01. The goal was the product of this persistent offensive pressure that tired the opposing defense.
The Williams defense obviously deserves credit for stifling Bowdoin, the “best team we’ve faced thus far,” according to Melendy. She credited the win to “lots of second efforts, and determination,” among other things.
“A lot of our success this weekend was due to intensity,” said Brophy. “We took care of the little things, and did not have many lapses of focus.”
Williams enters the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time ever, after losing to Connecticut College a year ago in the Sweet Sixteen. As the team goes into the next round, Melendy discussed the differences between this year’s team and previous ones.
“We are skilled, and probably playing more as a team,” Melendy said. “The game we lost last year was the best game we played all year, but it seems as though this team has more determination to combine skill with playing smart.”
The team will travel to Rochester, NY to take on Nazareth College this Saturday in the NCAA national quarterfinal match.