Women’s soccer finds itself in four-way tie for first place with one to play

With just one game remaining in the regular season, women’s soccer (9-3-1; 5-2-1 in the NESCAC) is firmly entrenched in an intense and crowded battle for the NESCAC regular season crown. Following Saturday’s hard-fought 0-0 tie against Amherst, the Ephs are now in a four-way tie for first place in the conference with the Lord Jeffs, Bowdoin and Tufts.

“It’s exciting to see that with every game we have been able to improve,” co-captain Stacey Starner ’03 said. “If we can continue to get better, everything will work out and we will reach all of our goals for the postseason.”

Against Amherst (8-4-1; 5-2-1), the two squads battled for 120 scoreless minutes before ending in a draw.

Williams had several opportunities to break the tie with nine shots on goal, but Amherst keeper Brooke Diamond helped keep the Ephs off of the board with five saves.

On the other end of the field, the stellar Eph defense limited the Lord Jeffs to just three shots on goal in 120 minutes of play, and Eph goalkeeper Lindsay Starner ’05 was uncontested on the day.

Hannah Stauffer ’05 appeared to have ended the deadlock in the 22nd minute with a scorching line drive shot, but Diamond made a spectacular diving stop to preserve the tie.

The Lord Jeffs’ best scoring chance in regulation came in the 42nd minute on an apparent breakaway by sophomore midfielder Ashley Harmeling, but a Williams defender stepped in at the last second to strip the ball away.

Eph striker Claire Samuel ’04 narrowly missed a score in the 65th minute with a rocket shot that ricocheted off of the left post.

Amherst had the best scoring opportunity in overtime, but midfielder Leslie Curren’s shot banged off of the crossbar four minutes into the first extra period.

Both teams entered the day tied with Tufts for the top spot in the NESCAC standings, and the draw temporarily dropped both squads into a three-way tie for second place with Bowdoin. However, in an amazing turn of events, Middlebury played Tufts to a 0-0 tie, creating a four-team logjam atop the standings, with Williams, Amherst, Tufts and Bowdoin each boasting a 5-2-1 conference record.

The conference champion will be crowned on Nov. 2, which is the final day of the regular season for all NESCAC teams. In an odd scheduling quirk, each of the top four teams will play a member of the lowest four teams.

The schedule appears to most strongly favor both the Ephwomen, who will host last-place Wesleyan (2-9-1, 0-6-1 NESCAC) at 11 a.m., and Tufts, who will host ninth-place Colby (5-8-0, 1-7-0 NESCAC) at 1:30 p.m.

Amherst is charged with a somewhat more difficult task as it takes to the road against eighth-place Trinity (5-5-1, 2-4-1 NESCAC), while Bowdoin will host seventh-place Bates (6-6-0, 3-5-0 NESCAC).

The winner of the Connecticut College-Middlebury contest also has an outside shot at the conference title, but would need each of the top four teams to lose in order to move into first place.

Following the conclusion of the regular season, the NESCAC Tournament will begin on Nov. 3, with the first-place team receiving a bye into the second round on Nov. 9, which it will host. The winner of the tournament will then receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Div. III Championship Tournament.

In individual news, Stacey Starner remains tied with Christine Boddicker ’88 as the Williams women’s soccer career goal-scoring leaders. Starner, who has 38 career goals, already holds the all-time record at Williams for points scored.

“Records are very exciting, but they really just speak about the quality of the team and its success while I’ve been here,” Starner said. “Most individual accomplishments are only possible because of the team, and I definitely think that that is true with me. Ultimately, though, winning is the most important thing.”

Starner and Samuel are tied for the team lead with 13 points this season, and Samuel leads the Ephs with six goals scored. Kate Harkey ’06 (nine points) and Stauffer (eight points) are third and fourth, respectively, on the team scoring list.

Goalkeeper Lindsay Starner has followed up her strong first-year campaign with a solid sophomore season, compiling a 9-2-1 record with 5.5 shutouts and just six goals allowed all year.

Williams has just one more regular season game to add to these statistics, after which the Ephs will enter the NESCAC Tournament seeded anywhere from first to fifth.