Men’s soccer: perfect and loving it

The Ephmen started the week ranked second nationally and held onto their ranking with another win. With their record standing at 4-0, including three NESCAC wins, the Ephs put their perfection on the line against a tough Wesleyan squad. As it turned out, they did not need to be concerned, as they proceeded to roll over their Little Three rivals 4-1.

It was a cool fall Saturday when the Ephs faced the Cardinals on the grass at Cole Field. Right from the start, Wesleyan made it clear that Williams was going to have to work hard in this matchup, fending off the Ephs’ early attacks with a tough defense.

It took the Ephmen more than 15 minutes to score, longer than any other game this season. Eighteen minutes in, the Williams attackers set up for a corner kick by Alex Blake ’03.

Blake lobbed it into the penalty area to the waiting forehead of Walker Waugh ’02. Waugh slammed a header into the net, giving the Ephs their first goal and a 1-0 lead.

The teams battled for another lengthy scoreless stretch, but Williams’ consistent effort proved too much for the Cardinal defense.

At 31 minutes, Ted Giannacopoulos ’02 crossed a ball to Blake, who pounded a shot past the Wesleyan keeper.

With a 2-0 lead, the Ephs refused to let up their offensive onslaught. It paid off quickly.

Giannacopoulos, weaving to and fro among the defenders, brought the ball upfield and dished it off to Blake. Also working the ball, Blake put a shot into the net for his second goal of the day and Giannacopoulos’ second assist.

With his two goals against Wesleyan, Blake brought his total to a team-leading eight.

Despite a convincing 3-0 lead at the break, Williams found itself suddenly on the defensive by a sudden Wesleyan surge at the start of the second half. The Eph defenders stopped the attack for fifteen minutes, but with 61 minutes gone by a Cardinal midfielder broke through the defense, scoring unassisted and bringing the score to 3-1.

“We got a 3-0 lead, and we should be sharp,” said head coach Mike Russo. “I am happy, but we would like to keep it at nothing on the other end.”

Williams still had some fight in them as time ticked down. With less than 15 minutes left in the game, Williams tallied a final goal.

At the top of the penalty box Khari Stephenson ’04 blasted a pass from Giannacopoulos into the Cardinal net. It was Stephenson’s first goal of his Williams career.

The final moments saw the teams continue to battle, though the Ephmen ultimately outlasted the Cardinal assault to end up with the 4-1 victory.

Ryan Spicer ’01 and Rob Kirsher ’03 shared time; while in net, Spicer made two saves for Williams.

It was a balanced effort for Williams, who got off twenty-two shots while holding Wesleyan to only six.

At the end of the week, the Ephs stood atop the Division III national standings in win-loss percentage, one of only two undefeated teams ranked in the region. Blake and Giannacopoulos are both among the top ten individuals for points, averaging 4.0 and 3.67 points per game, respectively.

Tomorrow, the Ephs travel up to New Hampshire in a regional matchup. There the Ephs, the top-ranked team in the New England region, will take on third-ranked Keene State in what could be their toughest game to date.

Later in the week, on Saturday, Williams plays NESCAC rival Trinity at Cole Field. A 1:00 p.m. kickoff is scheduled.