Women’s soccer finishes 14-0

The Williams-Amherst rivalry always makes games between the two schools intense, but at Saturday’s women’s soccer game the stakes were especially high. Williams’ (14-0, 9-0 in the NESCAC) perfect season depended solely on a win against Amherst (5-6-4, 5-2-2). In one of the most suspenseful and hard fought games of the season, the Ephs edged out the Jeffs 2-1, concluding a perfect regular season of play and topping the NESCAC. With their No. 1 seed in the NESCAC tournament, the women received a bye in Sunday’s first round.

Williams seemed to control possession of the ball right from the beginning of the game on Saturday, but the determined Amherst team and the wet weather proved to be two daunting challenges the Ephs were forced to overcome. Despite the women’s strong play and control, Amherst struck first. A little under 20 minutes into the game Amherst’s Natalie Ferraioli brought the ball upfield. She passed three Eph defenders and fired an unassisted shot right over goalie Lauren Sinnenberg ’10. Not only did the Jeff’s goal put Amherst out to an early lead, but it was only the third goal allowed by the Ephs all season.

For only the second time this fall, the Ephs were behind their opponents. But the clock favored the Ephs’ chances and the offense got to work. Williams took 15 shots on goal in the first half and two of them paid off. Before the half ended Williams had not only responded to Amherst’s goal, but added another to take the lead 2-1. Nearly 30 minutes into the first half Sarah Walmsley ’10 tied up the score by heading in a cross from Sara Wild ’11. Clare Gallagher ’09 gave the Ephs the lead less than five minutes later off an assist from rookie Annelise Snyder ’11. Gallagher fired a perfectly placed shot right under the crossbar and past Jeff goalie Lili Ferguson. Entering the break, Williams had come from behind to be in a comfortable leading position.

With the rain continuing to escalate in the second half, both teams struggled to control the ball. The Ephs continued their aggressive play and strong defense, taking nine more shots on goal while only allowing the Jeffs two. Williams took three corner kicks in the second half but could not find proper footing to convert these opportunities into goals due to the wet conditions. After 90 minutes of challenging and suspenseful play, the ref blew his whistle to signal the end of the game and the end of the Ephs’ perfect regular season. The whole team rushed the field with screams of excitement as they made Williams history.

“We are ecstatic,” co-captain Kaolin McEvoy ’08 said. “It is a truly priceless feeling to earn a perfect season and contribute to the program’s history. On the other hand, we are still hungry and still capable of playing better soccer. Our focus should be on a commitment to a lack of complacency and a reinvestment in our will to win.”

Not since 2001 has women’s soccer gone undefeated in the NESCAC. Not only did the current Ephs not lose a conference game, they did not lose a game all season, making them the first team in Williams history to go 14-0. Throughout the regular season the Ephs outscored their opponents 40-3 while tallying 11 shutouts. The Ephs attribute this year’s success to the struggles they have overcome in past few seasons.

“Our team has left the ’05 and ’06 seasons completely enraged and we have used that to be constructive,” McEvoy said. “We have radically changed the way we train in the off season and I believe that has made all the difference. I have never been a part of a team that is so cohesive, so competitive and so diligent.”

The Amherst game marked a perfect regular season and also the final regular season game for Jessie Freeman ’08, co-captain Ana Sani ’08, Alexa Herlach ’08 and McEvoy. These seniors’ strong play and leadership shaped this season’s success. McEvoy was named NESCAC Player of the Week for her outstanding play in midfield, as her efforts helped the Ephs come from behind to complete their final win of the regular season.

With a 14-0 record and the No. 1 spot in the NESCAC, Williams earned a first round bye in the conference tournament. The team’s next game is against Middlebury on Saturday on Cole Field. While they have just made Williams history, women’s soccer will not let their regular season wins go to their heads. The Ephs understand that they are now the team to beat and their undefeated record puts a lot of pressure on them to succeed. But it is a pressure they hope to thrive on. “I feel the best kind of pressure, the pressure you place on yourself,” McEvoy said. “Our expectations for ourselves have brought us to where we are now. This weekend cannot come soon enough.”