Women’s soccer falls to Lady Jeffs in hard-fought NESCAC tournament

Women’s soccer’s (14-1-0) phenomenal undefeated season ended on Sunday as the Ephwomen lost to Amherst (11-4-1) in the final game of the NESCAC tournament.

The team will have the opportunity to avenge the loss, however, thanks to the receipt of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament Wednesday.

Last weekend, the Ephwomen played two exciting overtime games and finished a hard fought second to Amherst after losing 2-1 in double-overtime.

The Ephs got behind early in Sunday’s final as they quickly found themselves in an unpleasant situation when Amherst’s Adrienne Showler spun around a defender and fired a fast, low shot past the Eph goalkeeper, Abi Jackson ’03, in the 15th minute to put the Jeffs up 1-0.

“We didn’t go quite hard enough in the beginning,” said Lisa Melendy, head coach. “Amherst certainly did, though, and their goal gave them even more momentum.”

Despite Amherst’s opening goal, the game was constantly switching halves of the field at a fast pace, but there were very few shots of goal in the first half. “We didn’t come out as hard as we would have liked against Amherst, but by the end of the game, you could see how much we wanted it,” said Daniela Bailey ’05.

In the second half, the Ephwomen came out with even more intensity and focus, not wanting their 14-game win streak snapped. Despite their renewed efforts, the majority of game play remained centered in midfield, with very few opportunities for Eph shots on goal until late in the game.

Never relenting in their desire to tie the game up, Williams scored a goal off of a corner in the 83rd minute of the game. Williams put the pressure on Amherst and had three corner kicks in a row, with the third one being the charm. Brittany Esty ’05 floated the ball into the box to captain CC Ciafone ’02, who made a hard cut to the ball, one-timing it high into the net to tie the game at one apiece.

There were a few more scoring opportunities for both teams in the remaining seven minutes, but Jackson came up with a few big saves to effectively thwart the Amherst offense. At the end of the 90 minutes of regulation, the game was still tied at one. Through the first overtime, neither Williams nor Amherst dominated the flow of the game. During the entire 15-minute period, Jackson was only forced to make two saves while the Amherst goalie made one. Still tied after the first overtime, it was Amherst’s Tracy Montigny who put in the game-winning goal in the 119th minute of play.

The goal came off of a corner kick that was headed for the goal before defender Kristin Van Woert ’04 cleared it away from her position inside the near post. The ball ricocheted to Montigny who just squeezed it in to deliver the NESCAC title to Amherst.

Though the Ephwomen placed second in the tournament, they still demonstrated that they are a team to be reckoned with. “We played really well, and I feel like we should be very proud of ourselves,” said Bailey.

She continued, “The game today against Amherst is going to be a big motivator for us in the NCAA tournament. . . We absolutely do not want to lose again, especially not to Amherst. We are going to raise our level of intensity and give it all we’ve got.”

In the semifinal game against Bowdoin, Williams pulled out a 2-1 win in overtime. Bowdoin struck first in the 16th minute with a rocket shot to the upper left-hand corner of the net past Jackson, but seven minutes later Claire Samuel ’04 evened the score on a breakaway with a shot to the upper right-hand corner of the net.

“I think that it’s fair to say that Bowdoin dominated the game just as much or maybe even more than we did,” admitted Bailey. “What made the difference and earned us the win was our ability to finish. That’s been the theme all season.”

After 97 minutes of competition, the Ephs got the opportunity they had been waiting for when Marlene Bonasera ’02 who found Emily Driscoll ’05 in the corner on a throw-in. Driscoll sent a pass into the Polar Bear box that deflected off a Bowdoin defender and found Lindsay Starner ’05 in the middle. Starner collected the ball and sent a shot into the left side of the goal to give the Ephs a 2-1 victory.

“The story of our season has been our refusal to give up,” said Melendy. “Bowdoin had some great chances, but we kept fighting and we persevered. We talk a lot about finishing on our chances and we got a good chance there at the end and Stacey sent it home; we couldn’t be happier right now.” The NCAA tournament will begin on Wednesday as the Ephs play host to Framingham State at 1 p.m. The winner will head to Wheaton College this weekend to take on Western Connecticut State on Saturday.

Amherst, the NESCAC champion, will play Endicott College on Wednesday with the winner moving on to face Wheaton on Saturday. A $4 admission fee will be charged to all games; students will be admitted for $2.

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