Women’s soccer’s remarkable season came to a heartbreaking end this Saturday in the NCAA tournament at the hands of the Western Connecticut College Colonials. The Western Conn. winner came in the 107th minute of play after a tight and hard fought game.
In the 23rd minute of play, the Colonials seemed poised to take an early lead when a header by Heather Babington got past Eph goalie Abi Jackson ’03. However, Colleen Doody ’03, who had earlier been named to the first team all-NESCAC squad, hustled back, and her great effort paid off as she headed the ball off the goal line at the last possible instant.
Western seemed to be spurred on by their near miss, and attacked even harder in search of the goal they felt they had earned before. Their work paid off a little over 10 minutes later when Erin Hurley crossed a ball to the far left post and Lia Pellegrino-Young connected with her right foot to send a well taken shot into the net.
The Ephs, as has become their trademark, refused to be discouraged by the deficit, and battled on valiantly to create an equalizer. Their efforts came up short until well into the second half. In the 75th minute captain Marlene Bonasera ’02 and Lindsay Dwyer ’05 teamed up on a neat give and go play.
Bonasera won the ball in the midfield, and found a sprinting Dwyer near the top of the box with a well-weighed ball. As the Colonial defenders collapsed on Dwyer, she hesitated, and then smartly returned the ball to Bonasera, who clinically deposited it into the lower left corner.
Neither team was able to muster another score in regulation time, as both defenses played fiercely, the midfielders had a high work rate and shots become increasingly hard to come by. The game went into extra time and had the look of a classic. It seemed as if the Ephs might once again produce a miracle finish to a game, as they have so many times this year. Yet, on this afternoon it was not meant to be.
The Western Conn. game-winner came when Erin Murphy drove down the right touchline and fired a tight angled screamer towards goal. The ball deflected off of Jackson to a waiting Rebecca Buffinton who had a gaping net to roll the ball into. She coolly placed her shot in the lower left hand corner, and the Ephs’ season came to a sudden and painful end.
“Losing was very disappointing, especially being a senior and all, but we had more to celebrate about than to cry about,” said Bonasera. “That was just one bad day in a million great ones.”
Earlier in the week, Williams took on Framingham State in the first round of the tournament. Ninety minutes later, they had tied the NCAA Div. III record set by Lynchburg, in steamrolling to an astounding 9-0 final score in a completely dominating performance. Framingham was simply bettered in every aspect of the game.
At the outset nobody would have anticipated the final score line, as the game was scoreless into the 20th minute of play.
“We wanted to get off to a fast start today, especially because we haven’t in our last three games,” said head coach Lisa Melendy. “In each of our last three games we have allowed our opponents to score first and that puts you in the hole right away. We talked about coming out and winning the first five minutes and then the next five minutes and so on.” By the middle of the game, the standards were raised. Winning the next five minutes meant scoring at least once.
Williams broke through when Eph forward Claire Samuel ’04 snaked her way through the Framingham defense on the left side and found a charging Bonasera with a solid cross to set up the only goal Williams would need at 20:02. A mere 67 seconds later, Bonasera would again terrorize the Framingham defense and tally her second goal thanks to a well-played ball from Stacey Starner ’03, who along with Doody has also been named to the first team all-NESCAC squad.
The Ephs were beginning to look unstoppable as Starner decided to take on the defense herself this time, netting the third goal unassisted at 27:42. The barrage continued with a blistering penalty kick by Daniela Bailey ‘05 at 37:51 after Dwyer had been taken down in the box.
At this point, the Ephs were playing flawlessly, and Dwyer was credited with an assist on the Ephs’ fifth goal of the first half when she set up Lydia Crafts ‘04 for a superb finish at 38:18.
“Williams is as strong a team as we had heard from,” said Framingham State coach Christine Bebas after the game, in what would have been understandable words if the game had finished after the first 45 minutes. Unfortunately for Framingham, there was an entire half left to play.
Five minutes and 40 seconds into the second half, Starner was the recipient of a through ball from Bonasera. She patiently waited for the Rams’ keeper to commit before sliding the ball past her. At 70:40 Emily Ludwig ’04 converted a cross from Kathleen Smith ’03 to make the lead 7-0.
The next quality moment belonged to Trisha Barbosa ‘02, who slotted a perfect ball to Dwyer, who was streaking down the right side.
The first-year unleashed a tremendous drive over the Rams’ keeper’s right shoulder to make it 8-0. Crafts closed out the scoring when she converted her second of the game, on an unassisted goal with 2:54 left to play
“I was pleased that we came out hard today,” said Melendy, who, in the understatement of the day, added “we were on today.”
Bonasera, closing out a fabulous career at Williams, later said, “This team was the best team I have ever been on. Every time we stepped on the field we grew as a team, and that has a lot to do with the attitudes of each girl and the great coaching staff. As bad as I felt knowing that it was my last game and my last time on the field with such an amazing team, I still had a feeling of accomplishment and just kept thinking of all the great parts of the season. A lot more comes from the Williams College women’s soccer team then just winning and losing. In the big picture we won.”