The most successful season in the history of the Williams women’s soccer team came to an end Saturday when it lost a hard-fought match 1-0 to Macalester College in the NCAA national semifinals. The Ephs finished the year 15-2-1.
The Final Four game was very tight throughout, as both defenses kept their reputation for continually unrelenting play. Coaches on both sides noted this after the game.
Williams Coach Lisa Melendy remarked, “we were having trouble putting that last touch on the ball, which is a tribute to their great defense.”
Macalester coach John Leaney said after the match that “Williams really impressed me. Their backline literally won every ball. We had no idea what they were like. We kind of expected we could dominate, and we didn’t.”
Players afterwards were by no means satisfied with the result but nonetheless saw this match as testimony to the fact that the team can play on the national level, and on any given day can go out and play with the best in the Division III soccer.
The lone goal of the match came with three minutes remaining in regulation. Macalester All-American Kate Ryan-Reiling finished a rebound that bounced off the crossbar. In a game as closely contested as this one, all it took was one break to turn the tide.
“We expected a 1-0 result,” Melendy said. “We knew it was going to be off a key opportunity and unfortunately, they got that chance.”
The offense struggled to get quality offensive chances, though they dominated the ball for large parts of both halves. In the second half, it looked as though the offense was turning up the intensity, but, in the words of senior Jill Caterer, they “just couldn’t get it done.”
Macalester went on to face UC-San Diego in the championship game Sunday, but the Scots couldn’t repeat the outcome they earned against the Ephwomen, falling 1-0 to the Tritons. UC-San Diego had previously defeated The College of New Jersey 1-0 in the Final Four. Erika Alfredson scored both of San Diego’s goals in the tournament and was named its offensive MVP. Defensive honors went to Alfredson’s teammate Julia Cuder.
The championship was UC-San Diego’s fourth in the last five years, and the Tritons have appeared in every Division III NCAA tournament since it began in 1986.
The team improved with every game of the season, particularly in the NCAA tournament, and this game was no different. The play of the defense in general, but especially Ann Brophy ’00 and Meghan Cavanaugh ’00, was extraordinary throughout.
Several Ephs garnered individual honors this week, with four players named All-NESCAC. Caterer, CC Ciafone ’02 and Kate O’Boyle ’01 were named first team. Goalie Rebecca Brooks ’00 was named second team. In addition, Caterer was named the NESCAC Player of the Year, and Melendy received NESCAC Coach of the Year.
In addition, three Williams players earned all-tournament honors for their play in the Final Four. These players were defenders Brophy and Cavanaugh and mid-fielder Ciafone.
Senior Becky Kummer put the season in perspective.
“This has been an incredible season, not just because of our successes on the field but because of the people on the team,” Kummer said. “It was wonderful for the seniors to be able to play together for four years. It is also wonderful to know that the elements of future success are already present in the leadership of the sophomores and juniors and the skill of the first-years.”
The future is indeed something to look forward to for the program. This year’s team raised the standard by which subsequent teams will be measured, and left its mark on the women’s soccer program at Williams. The seniors leave with a combined record of 50-7-9, an ECAC championship and three trips to the NCAA tournament, including the NCAA Final Four in this their final year.
For the program this season signified something else: recognition on the national level. Though the Ephs had been to the tourney before, hosting the Final Four was a huge step forward.
“The top four teams in the country were here,” Melendy said.”We belong here.”