Women’s soccer took on Smith on an overcast and somewhat dreary Wednesday afternoon. Two hours later they had turned Smith’s afternoon and bus ride home all the more downcast and grim with a 4-0 victory. In improving their season opening record to a perfect 3-0-0, the women completely outplayed an overmatched Smith squad. A subsequent 3-2 overtime victory over Wesleyan puts the Ephs at 4-0-0 on the season.
Over the weekend, the team won a hard-fought battle against Little Three rival Wesleyan. Claire Samuel ’04 scored the game winner a mere six seconds into the overtime period.
The game began with Wesleyan taking the lead on a goal by Jen Hipscher. It was the first time all season the Ephwomen had been down in a game. Samuel put an end to that situation at 30:34 as she slid a goal past the Cardinal goalie. Lindsay Dwyer ’05 assisted on the play.
Five minutes into the second half, Stacey Starner ’03 gave the Ephs the lead on an impressive, unassisted goal. The Ephs could not hold onto the lead, however, as Wesleyan came back to tie it up. The Wesleyan effort was all for naught, however, due to Samuel’s game-winner.
Earlier in the week, the team had taken on Smith. At the outset, the task ahead did not appear to be one of ease, as Smith boasted a strong offense that had led them to average 4.67 goals per game.
But Williams has some firepower of its own, and Marlene Bonasera ’02 gave Smith the first taste of what was to come with some neat dribbling between several defenders to set up a shot early on.
Over the next several possessions Williams must have sensed a weakness on the left side of the Smith defense; by the seventh minute Lydia Crafts ’04 was running her marker ragged down the right flank to dangerous effect.
Bonasera was prominent in these early forays, first laying the ball off to set up a wide shot, and then using several feigns to the middle before leading her marker to the touchline and driving a low hard pass across the goalmouth.
Williams had taken control of the midfield and was forcing the game, however the team was not getting enough bodies forward to pose the finishing threat that the solid crosses deserved.
Yet, the Ephs were finding acres of room in the midfield; clearly, if the Smith defense did not close down faster it would be punished.
This punishment finally happened in the 14th minute. Back Kristen Van Woert ’04 stepped forward into space and sent a looping ball into the box from the right. This time there was a Williams player to meet the ball. Smith keeper Lizzie Sandoe charged the ball as did two defenders. But, Katie Worth ’02 slipped in, punching an accomplished finish past the flailing keeper.
The Smith defense, which had been collected to this point, began to have moments of panic as an endless stream of crosses continued to find the box.
Williams was finding solid play all around the pitch, and the next few moments of class belonged to Samuel. She cleverly dummied and turned her marker before releasing a weak shot. This was followed by a determined and fierce dash past several defenders that eventually led to another chance at goal.
Dwyer followed this up with a play of sheer talent. She took the ball from midfield, went past her marker with frightening ease and unleashed a screamer at the top shelf that forced Sandoe to parry excellently over the bar.
The corner led to a dangerous volley from Van Woert that was deflected over the crossbar again.
The inevitable second goal came courtesy of the perfectly taken subsequent corner. Starner rose gracefully in space to send a solid header into the net.
Williams continued to press and Smith had no answer to Dwyer as she suddenly found herself alone in the box after an intelligent buildup from the midfield. She unleashed a calm and collected strike that beat the keeper easily only to ricochet off the left post.
The movement, pace and drive of the Williams attackers piling down both flanks during the first half must have frightened Smith’s increasingly porous defense, because the second half was more of the same. Indeed, at times it resembled more of a training exercise in attack than a true game.
Pushed back to its own end, Smith’s entire team was resorting to feeble clearance efforts. These were met and redistributed to Williams players through the back line, which played an all-around solid game, not giving Smith any chances at all.
The game had taken on a completely one-sided feel, and if it was a boxing match the ref would have already called a TKO, for Smith had taken enough punches. Yet more were coming.
Williams showed no signs of letting up, as Dwyer was consistently turning and outpacing an obviously worn-out and creaking Smith defense. So it was no surprise when she and the Williams team were rewarded for their relentless pressure. Starner, enjoying a great game, played a delightful ball past the Smith defense onto the quickly oncoming path of Dwyer. Her reaching toe-stab was enough to steer the ball past the keeper to make it 3-0, and push her team leading tally to 4 goals on the season.
Dywer was humble later in giving credit to her older teammates. “The upperclassmen have been awesome. The players up front are so good at feeding me the ball. I’m in awe of them. It just makes me want to play better.”
Kathleen Smith ’03 provided a fitting cap to the game with a fourth goal. Another sustained attack had resulted in confusion inside the box, until Smith stepped forward aggressively to finish into the left hand side of the goal.
Bonasera characterized the team’s mood as optimism grounded in the knowledge that the team still needs to improve, especially for the big match-ups against Middlebury and Amherst: “We had a great preseason this year, a ton of talent, and so we’re expecting to do really well,” she said. “As the games show we are looking pretty good so far but we still have some things we need to work out.”
The team’s next matchup is Tuesday, Sept. 25, when they play host to Western New England College (5-3).