Women’s soccer back in first

For women’s soccer (7-2; 4-1 in the NESCAC), the season seems to have gotten darkest just before dawn. After losing consecutive 1-0 heartbreakers against nationally-ranked opponents, the Ephs have put together a four-game winning streak to move into first place in the NESCAC standings.

“We’re playing really well as a team right now,” Head Coach Michelyne Pinard said. “Our defense has been solid, and we’ve been able to finish on offense.”

The Ephs recently completed a successful journey through the heart of Maine, defeating Colby College (3-5; 1-4) 3-0 on Sunday a day after topping Bates (5-4, 2-3) 2-0. Williams has now shut out its last three opponents, and has compiled a 10-1 scoring advantage during the four-game streak.

Hannah Stauffer ’05 sparked the offense against Colby with two scores in the first 14 minutes, giving Williams a comfortable cushion that was too great for the White Mules to overcome.

Stauffer opened the scoring with just 4:46 gone by the game, then pushed the lead to two with a goal less than nine minutes later.

Ann Woods ’05, assisted by Sharla Dodd ’03, closed out the scoring at 85:23 on a blast from 25 yards away.

Against Bates, striker Claire Samuel ’04 continued her impressive play this season with two goals, raising her team-leading total to six. Afton Johnson ’05 also contributed an assist for her first point of the year.

The loss ended Bates’ two-game winning streak, dropping the Bobcats into a tie with Connecticut College for seventh place in the NESCAC.

Prior to their weekend trek through Lewiston and Waterville, the Ephs blanked Western New England (WNEC) (7-4) 2-0 in a non-conference road match on Tuesday.

Williams dominated the contest on the offensive side of the ball, out-shooting WNEC 15-5 and winning seven corner kicks to the Golden Bears’ one.

Defender Daniela Bailey ’05 led the Eph attack with a goal and an assist, including the game-winning score, collecting her first three points of the season. Samuel added an insurance goal for Williams at 33:58.

Lindsay Starner ’05 and Clara Hard ’06 each played one half in goal for the Ephs, combining for five saves to shut down WNEC. Their WNEC counterpart, Jessica Vital, stopped eight shots for the Golden Bears.

With five regular season games remaining, including four against NESCAC opponents, the Ephs’ conference lead is by no means comfortable. Tufts (5-2; 3-1), which hosts Williams on Oct. 19, lurks just one half game off of Williams’ pace, and Bowdoin and Amherst are both within one game of the top spot.

In order to maintain the lead, the Ephs need strong performances down the stretch from offensive catalysts Stauffer, Harkey, Samuel and Stacey Starner ’03, who has slumped a bit recently in her quest to become the leading goal scorer in Williams women’s soccer history.

Starner already owns the record for career points (90), and needs just two goals to tie the record of 38, currently held by Christine Boddicker ’88.

Samuel, with six goals and one assist, leads the Ephs with 13 points on the year through the team’s first nine contests. Stauffer (three goals, two assists) and Starner (two goals, four assists) are tied for second with eight points apiece, followed closely by Harkey (three goals, one assist), who has seven points to her credit.

As of Sept. 30, the Ephs have been ranked 22nd in the nation in the NSCAA Division III national rankings and fourth in the New England rankings. However, with three shutout victories since then, Williams figures to move up in both polls.

The Ephs will next play 19th-ranked Keene State on Oct. 9 at 4:15 p.m. on Cole Field, then will host NESCAC rival Middlebury at 2 p.m. on Oct. 12.