Women’s soccer falls to Tufts in NESCAC finals

Despite a valiant effort in the NESCAC Tournament, women’s soccer fell just shy of earning their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Div. III Women’s Soccer Championship. The Ephs advanced to the NESCAC title game before falling to top-seeded Tufts 3-0, and were unable to secure one of 12 at-large bids to the national tournament.

“The weekend didn’t go our way, and that’s unfortunate,” goalkeeper Lindsay Starner ’05 said. “But given that we dealt with so many challenges this season with a new coach and the issues that we faced within our team, I think that we can consider our season successful, and we are already fired up for next season.”

In the conference title game, Tufts displayed the skill and determination worthy of the regular season champs, scoring three goals in the first 40 minutes of play to put the Ephs into a hole.

“Tufts came ready to play and went hard to every ball,” co-captain Colleen Doody ’03 said. “We came in on our heels and were unable to come back from such a huge deficit. Still, I was proud that we never gave up and dominated play in the second half, but we were just unable to find the back of the net.”

Tufts opened the scoring in the 17th minute when Alle Sharlip ripped a curving corner kick towards the Eph net that Jess Trombly headed into the goal. The score marked the first allowed by Williams in the squad’s six games since Oct. 12.

Jen Baldwin added to the lead seven minutes later, scoring off of a penalty kick after an Eph foul. First-year Sarah Callaghan set up the final Tufts score in the 39th minute, beating the Eph defense down the field and feeding to Becca Doigan, who relayed the ball to Lindsay Garmirian. Garmirian then knocked a shot into the right side of the Williams goal, giving Tufts a 3-0 lead.

Tufts goalkeeper Meg McCourt made several impressive saves in her total of 17 to preserve the shutout.

“They got a couple of breaks early, and I think we were caught off guard,” Starner said. “Our team had never faced such a large deficit and, even though we really picked up the intensity and skill level in the second half, we were just too far behind.”

The Ephs advanced to the championship game on Saturday in thrilling fashion with a penalty kick victory over Bowdoin College. The two sides battled for 110 scoreless minutes before the Ephs prevailed with a 4-3 penalty kick win.

“We struggled against Bowdoin, and although they are a good team, we should have handled them in a better way than penalty kicks,” Starner said. “Still, we were happy to come away with the win.”

Williams found an unlikely hero in backup goalkeeper Clara Hard ’06, who was inserted into the net for the penalty kick round by head coach Michelyne Pinard; Hard rewarded Pinard’s faith with a diving stop to the right on the Polar Bears’ first PK attempt.

Stacey Starner ’03 then converted the first Eph attempt, followed by successful shots from Sarah Krygowski ’05, Brittany Esty ’05 and Blair Coffman ’06. However, Bowdoin converted three consecutive shots to narrow the margin to one. Then, with the tension mounting, Hard sealed the victory with a diving hand save on the fifth and final Polar Bear shot.

Unlike the first conference semi-final, a 2-1 Tufts victory over Connecticut College, which included numerous scoring opportunities for both sides, the Bowdoin-Williams match featured few quality chances.

The Ephs’ best scoring chance came when Kate Harkey ’06 blasted a free kick off of the crossbar with two minutes remaining in the first half. Bowdoin had an opportunity early in the second half, but Lindsay Starner punched away a free kick by Polar Bear striker Kendall Cox to keep Bowdoin off of the board.

The Ephs will face a difficult challenge next season in replacing several talented seniors, including co-captains Doody and Stacey Starner, who will graduate as the all-time leading scorer in Williams women’s soccer history. Fortunately, the Ephs have a plethora of experienced underclassmen ready to step in and take the reigns in 2003.

“The seniors have been amazing,” Starner said. “They were our foundation this year, and our inspiration every time we stepped onto the field. Each of them had their own mark on the season, and we are all so thankful to have been able to play with them.”