Ephs clinch conference title, 4-0

Dominant is a word that can be used to describe only two teams in New England this fall: the Patriots and 16-0-0 women’s soccer. The Ephs were unbeatable as they won the NESCAC tournament this past weekend, defeating Middlebury 4-1 in the semifinal round on Saturday and then finishing off Bowdoin 4-0 on Sunday. Sunday’s accomplishment marked only the second time the team has ever captured the NESCAC title and the first time since it defeated Middlebury in the 2004 NESCAC finals.

With a perfect regular season the Ephs were given a bye for the first round of NESCAC tournament, and they anxiously awaited their opponent in Saturday’s semifinal match. Sixth seeded Middlebury advanced to face Williams by defeating third seeded Amherst 1-0 in the first round of the tournament. The Ephs already defeated Middlebury, 4-0 just a few weeks prior to Saturday’s meeting. During that previous game, the Panthers kept Williams’ potent offense off the scoreboard for the first 55 minutes of play.

However, Saturday’s match-up was a different story from that of the sunny contest a few weeks before. This time it was cold and gray on Cole Field, the atmosphere reflecting the match’s high stakes. Brianna Wolfson ’10 started the game off for Williams, scoring within the first 10 minutes of the game. Wolfson drove past Middlebury’s last defender and blasted a shot towards the far right post before the charging Middlebury keeper could block her angle. Williams did not settle for a 1-0 lead, and the team’s next goal again came off the foot of Wolfson. After taking a cross from rookie midfielder Sara Wild ’11, Wolfson buried her next shot in the net with a hard ground ball.

The second half was no different, as Williams continued to dominate possession of the ball and play strong defense. Williams continued to score, and the Ephs’ third goal came early in the second half. Williams’ leading goal scorer, Gabrielle Woodson ’09, got the ball on a break away and easily put it past the Middlebury keeper. But it was Williams’ fourth and final goal that truly showed the level of play this team has reached. Woodson was in possession of the ball when she passed to Wolfson, and then made a break for the goal. Wolfson quickly passed the ball back to Woodson who proceeded to score her second goal. It was the give-and-go play at its best, showcasing the teamwork and unity the Ephs have on the field.

Before time expired, Middlebury striker Caitlin Parker launched a perfect shot right past Williams’ keeper Lauren Sinnenberg ’10.

The win put Williams in Sunday’s final against the fourth seeded Bowdoin team who would enter the game off a double overtime victory over Tufts.

Although Williams narrowly edged Bowdoin in September, finishing the game 1-0, the Polar Bear Eph match-up on Sunday was much different, analogous to Ephs’ rematch with Middlebury the day before. Williams was more than ready against Bowdoin, and for the 16th game in a row they finished victorious. Four different Ephs scored against the Polar Bears, and the defense posted its 12th shutout of the season.

Under 10 minutes into the contest Williams recorded its first goal when midfielder Ana Sani ’08 scored off a cross from Woodson. Sani was all alone at the left post of the goal as she received and settled Woodson’s cross before sending her shot into the far right corner of the net. Williams’ scored again 20 minutes later when Wolfson was able to knock in a ball that had rebounded off of the Bowdoin goalkeeper.

What was more impressive was the lady Ephs’ impenetrable defense. Bowdoin was only able to put one shot on goal during the entire first half due to great control and teamwork by Williams.

Despite their 2-0 lead, the Eph offense didn’t let up in the second half. Williams scored its third goal when forward Sarah Walmsley ’10 received a perfectly placed throw in from Wild. Walmsley was able to settle the throw and cross the ball to an unmarked Clare Gallagher ’09, who had no trouble finishing the ball for a wide open goal. With just minutes left Woodson put Bowdoin away for good when she stormed down the field and scored on her second breakaway goal of the tournament. The victory was sealed, the championship won and the team advanced to 16-0-0 for the first time in program history.

Having secured the NESCAC championship, Williams received an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament. It was announced on Monday that Williams will be one of four teams out of a field of 60 teams to receive a first round bye. The second round match will be played at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Cole Field against the winner of the Springfield (15-2-1) and Husson (13-7-1) match.