The Williams Women’s Soccer team is going to the NCAA Final Four. And it won’t have to go very far to get there.
With a 2-0 victory over Nazareth College in Rochester, NY on Saturday the Ephwomen secured a spot in the national semifinals which will be played at Cole Field next Saturday. Williams will face Macalester College (19-2) in one semifinal, while UC-San Diego (17-1-2) and the College of New Jersey (21-0-2) will play in the other game.
Saturday, the Williams women played their best game of the year against “the best team they have faced this year,” according to Head Coach Lisa Melendy. The team has played better with each successive tournament game, and its record now stands at 15-1-1 for the season.
Williams scored a goal in each half of the quarterfinal game, with Stacy Starner ’03 notching them both. Everybody associated with the program referred to the win as a complete “team” victory. The offense pelted the Nazareth goal with 21 shots, while the Eph defense kept the opposing attack in check throughout the match.
In the first half, Nazareth was never able to get solid looks against the continually unyielding defensive unit. Their runs where cut short before they got within threatening distance of Eph goalie Rebecca Brooks ’00. Though by all accounts the Nazareth offense was one of the fastest and most explosive the Ephwomen have seen this fall, they were never able to get the looks they were accustomed to, and the Williams defense frustrated and wore the opposition down as the game progressed.
The Ephs’ offense fed off this energy, keeping the pressure on Nazareth. Finally, in the 30th minute, Starner scored the first of her goals by finishing off a loose ball in front.
The second half brought more of the same: the team was in full control of the action all over the field. Williams dominated the ball, playing with what Captain Ann Brophy ’00 called a potent mix of “composure and intensity.” Starner added her second goal, which was credited as unassisted, in the 63rd minute, when she got loose of the defense and beat the Nazareth goalie one-on-one on a breakaway.
On Saturday’s NCAA win, Melendy said, “It was a great game. Nazareth is a very good team, very fast and technically good. I thought our team combined a great defensive effort with a quick counterattack to be successful. It was team play that carried the day, but certain individual performances stand out.
“I thought that Ann Brophy, Cameron Walker (’01,) and Rebecca Brooks had about the best games I’d ever seen them play. It was exciting to watch them, along with their teammates lift their level of play. Colleen Doody (’03) came off the bench to shut down Nazareth’s speediest player, and Stacey Starner’s composure was remarkable.”
One aspect of the team that has been a theme all season long is balance. Players from every class year continually make major contributions and have a stake in the goal of winning a national championship. For the seniors, though, whose every game could be their last, the meaning of each successive game is more and more important.
Senior Becky Kummer described the feeling: “We have worked hard this year and, for some of us, for the past four years to get where we are. Making it to the Final Four has been an incredible experience and has given me a chance to keep playing the sport I love with a great team for a little while longer.”
Melendy expressed her thoughts on the weekend’s action: “The team is unbelievably excited to be heading to the Final Four. It is certainly a dream come true, and for the eight seniors on the team a fitting reward for all of the work they have put in to make this team successful. However, the Final Four is not the goal; we are determined to continue to raise our level of play and to meet the new challenges ahead.”
The NCAA Division III final will be on Sunday.