Women’s soccer opens postseason with shutout

Piecing together two wins over the weekend, women’s soccer (14-0-1, 8-0-1 in the NESCAC) played true to form with its 4-0 victory over Colby (5-9-1, 2-6-1) in the first round of the conference tournament, after the women wrested a 1-0 win from Middlebury (8-5-2, 6-3-0) on Halloween.

The Ephs’ outscored Colby in the NESCAC quarterfinals, showing the consistency of the women’s attacking skills on offense. After a run of mostly close wins, the Ephs came out strong against the Mules.

“Saturday’s game was one of our best games in a while,” co-captain Caitlin Colesanti ’09 said. “Collectively, we played better as a team offensively and defensively, moving up and down the field as a whole.”

In just the first five minutes of play Gabrielle Woodson ’09 put the ball past the Mules’ goalie, assisted by Brianna Wolfson ’10. Although play remained competitive throughout the first period, the women capitalized on an open opportunity to make it a 2-0 game at the half mark. Annelise Snyder ’11 notched the goal, and Jacqueline Russo ’11 collected an assist on the successful play. The Mules took only one shot on the Ephs’ goal before the break, while Williams managed 12 shots on goal for the half.

What the Ephs built up as a lead in the first half was solidified into a strong winning margin over the eighth-seeded Mules in the game’s remaining minutes. At 65:25, Wolfson sent another goal into the net. The Mules worked hard, but they could not convert their efforts into points on the board against the Ephs. Sarah Walmsley ’10 sealed the deal with 12 minutes left on the board, claiming a home win for the Ephs and securing their advance into the semifinals. The women finished the game with 24 total shots on goal to Colby’s two. Williams also ended up with seven corner kicks on the day while Colby had none.

“Postseason is completely different, a clean slate for everyone,” said co-captain Clare Gallagher ’09. “We’d beaten them before, but they could have thrown anything at us that day. We came out with a lot more fire. The game gave us a lot of confidence since we were able to put in a solid 90 minutes and feel good afterwards.”

The Ephs’ game on Friday carried different vibes for the team. It was the last game of the regular season, played at home on Cole Field against third-ranked Middlebury. More closely matched in skill, the two teams battled it out for the win.

Sara Wild ’11 posted a goal for the Ephs around the five minute mark, assisted by Russo. But that was to be the only point scored for the day. Although the women fired a total of 10 shots on goal, the team could not make another breakthrough in the first half. Middlebury worked to close the gap in the second period, coming up with four shots on goal to the Ephs’ six, yet the women managed to hold down their opponents and take the 1-0 win. Williams wound up leading the game in fouls, 13-9.

“It was incredibly emotional, especially as Senior Day,” Gallagher said. “You could tell in how we played; there was a lot of nervous excitement. We did play well, and we were able to get the win, which was great to end out the regular season.”

By virtue of their victory over Colby and their undefeated record, women have secured Cole Field as the site for the semifinals against Bowdoin on Saturday at 11 a.m.

“Bowdoin is very organized, so it will be great to have the earlier game and the home [field] advantage. We’re looking at the postseason game by game,” Gallagher said, “but Amherst is in the back of everyone’s mind. Bowdoin right now is our number one priority. We had a little bit of a lull, but we are definitely starting to peak, which is a good time for us. The Colby game indicated that the next few games could transfer into a NESCAC championship, again.”

“One game at a time, one day at a time. We had unfinished business with Amherst, and the team is looking forward to setting the record straight and getting a win,” Colesanti said. “We’ll have to take care of Bowdoin on Saturday so we can play Sunday.”