Williams men’s soccer got off to another impressive start this season with three wins and a number two national ranking.
With the increased importance of NESCAC games this year, the Ephs produced key wins over conference opponents Bowdoin College and Connecticut College.
On Saturday, the men faced NESCAC opponent Bowdoin at Cole Field and walked away with a 4-1 win. “We were a little ragged today, after getting the early goals we seem to lose concentration,” Head Coach Mike Russo had to say about the game, “I’ll take it; we won 4-1 against a competitive team.”
The Ephs got off to a strong start, scoring two goals in the first four minutes of play. Just over a minute in, Ted Giannacopoulos ’02 received a pass from co-captain Michael Cortese ’01 and drilled it past the Polar Bear goalie. Walker Waugh ’02 followed the goal with a shot that was deflected to the waiting Cortese, who drove another hard shot into the goal.
Williams began to relax with a 2-0 lead, but Bowdoin countered with a full attack. The defense hung tough, but the Polar Bears got on the board at the 23-minute mark, slipping a shot past Eph goalie Ryan Spicer ’01, who finished the day with three saves.
The Bowdoin goal ignited the Ephmen. Giannacopoulos responded by taking a Khari Stephenson ’03 pass, weaving his way through the Bowdoin defense and tallying his second goal of the day.
Williams was far from finished. Eric Stein ’02 sent a smooth through pass to Alex Blake ’03, who proceeded to beat the goalie and notch his sixth goal of the season. Neither team scored again, and the Ephs held on for the 4-1 win.
On Wednesday of last week the Ephmen traveled to Chicopee to take on Westfield State. Ten minutes into the match, Blake beat the Westfield defense and launched a shot past the goalie from twenty-five yards deep. Josef Powell ’03 sent a long pass through the Westfield defense to Blake twenty minutes later that Blake turned into another goal. His second goal brought the score to 2-0 in favor of the Ephs. The rest of the first half was a battle for both teams, but the Williams defenders fended off all the Westfield attacks and held the lead.
The Ephmen came out firing in the second half. Graham Davidson ’01 opened the festivities by scoring with a head in off of junior Richard Bode’s free kick. Emotions ran high after that, as a Williams player was ejected and the Ephs were forced to play with only ten men on the field. Although Westfield capitalized on the one-man deficit and scored, the Ephs quickly retaliated. Less than ten seconds after the Westfield goal, Giannacopoulos scored off a solid pass from Powell.
With a 4-1 lead, Williams struck yet again. Sophomore Marshall Dines stepped in and scored unassisted, notching the Ephs’ final goal. Spicer and Robert Kirshner ’03 shared time in goal, with Kirshner grabbing one save in the 5-2 win.
A week ago, in the season opener, Williams rolled over conference opponent Connecticut College with a decisive 6-0 win. Coach Russo, pleased with the team’s effort, said, “We had very good performances from every player; we used twenty-two guys. We counterattacked well and the intensity was there. If we continue to play like this we’ll be hard to beat.”
Less than five minutes in, the Ephs got their first goal of the season as Blake pounded a cross from Waugh into the net. Minutes later Bode caught the corner of the net with a tough shot from twenty-two yards back for the second goal. The third goal came soon after, as Davidson blew the rebound from a deflected Will Ouimet ’01 shot over the Camel goalie and gave the Ephs a solid 3-0 lead.
Play continued through the first half and well into the second without a goal, but at the sixty-minute mark Davidson notched his second goal of the day, this one from Giannacopoulos. With a commanding 4-0 lead the Ephs continued to attack the Connecticut goal. Giannacopoulos blew by three defenders to assist Blake’s second goal of the day, then minutes later connected with him again to earn his fourth assist and complete Blake’s hat trick. Behind the strong attack upfield, the Williams defense was remarkably solid throughout the game, allowing only one shot on goal.
Alex Blake earned the season’s first NESCAC Player of the Week honors for his hat trick against Connecticut. His six goals in three games are a continuation of last season, when he led the team with 11 goals and earned NESCAC Rookie of they Year honors.
This Saturday Williams faces Little Three rival Wesleyan. The game is slotted for a 12:30 start at Cole Field.