In an incredible show of passion and perseverance on Sunday at Cole Field, women’s soccer (16-0-1) earned a suspenseful come-from-behind victory against Amherst (11-2-3) and with it, the NESCAC title. The day before, the team trounced Bowdoin 6-1 to advance to the NESCAC finals.
After the semifinal round concluded on Saturday, Williams was set to face Amherst for the conference title. The Ephs’ flawless regular season record was marred earlier this season by the Jeffs. Earning a tie in the last minutes of the regular season game, Williams’ undefeated streak was almost snapped by the talented Amherst women. With the conference title on the line on Sunday, Williams was ready to avenge the tie and show Amherst and the rest of the league who was the stronger team.
“The Amherst game was what we wanted all week,” said co-captain Caitlin Colesanti ’09. “We really wanted to play them again and I could not have asked for a better game.”
In the regular season matchup the Ephs failed to score against the Jeffs until nearly one minute remained in the game, but on Sunday Brianna Wolfson ’10 put the Ephs on the scoreboard early. In the 17th minute, Wolfson drove into the box, dribbled around the Amherst defenders and nailed a shot right past the Jeff keeper. Amherst responded only five minutes later to even the score and dampen Williams’ momentum. The Jeffs scored again before the break to go up 2-1 despite Williams outshooting Amherst 14-6.
Throughout the second half, Williams produced one strong offensive play after another, but could not manage to hit the back of the net. With just four minutes to the final whistle, Gabrielle Woodson ’09, assisted by Wolfson, snuck the ball past Amherst keeper Allie Horwitz, tying the score, 2-2. The remaining minutes ran down and both teams entered a sudden death overtime which would determine the NESCAC title.
The Ephs entered the first 10-minute period of OT with renewed determination. Just two minutes and 38 seconds into overtime, Sarah Walmsley ’10, assisted by Woodson, had a breakaway towards goal and fired to the Amherst keeper whose deflection was not enough as the ball rolled into the goal, giving Williams the conference championship.
“From the kickoff, we gained control of the game and found our rhythm of composed soccer,” said co-captain Clare Gallagher ’09. “Every person on the team focused on the little things, winning our 50/50 challenges and tackles. Playing on Cole Field in the NESCAC final against Amherst was a dream come true. Together, we willed ourselves through those final minutes and refused to lose.”
Every position was important on Sunday in producing the win. “Our attack was 11 strong, much of our attacking opportunities came from how disciplined our backs were in keeping our team shape,” said Head Coach Michelyne Pinard. “It allowed us to get forward a lot more. All of our forwards are so dynamic, each brings something a little different than the other to the table. It makes it very hard for opposing defenses to deal with us. Our midfielders are such workers. They get up and down the field, totally selfless in all of their play.”
The team’s strength across the field, from forwards to keeper, clearly contributed to the 6-1 destruction of Bowdoin in Saturday’s semifinal match. Wolfson, assisted both times by Jacqueline Russo ’11, scored in the second and 16th minutes. One minute later, Sara Wild ’11 put Williams ahead 3-0. Bowdoin snuck in its only goal in the 34th minute, establishing a halftime score of 3-1.
In the second half, Wolfson rounded out her hat trick with a goal in the 46th minute. Woodson scored in the 62nd and 86th minutes, finishing with a score of 6-1. With four goals and one assist on the weekend, Wolfson was named NESCAC Player of the Week.
“This weekend shows how dynamic and exciting we can be, but also how resilient we can be when things aren’t going quite our way,” said Pinard. “I’m just so proud of each and every one of them.”
The women’s outstanding record earned them a bye in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Their next game will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday on Cole Field, where the Ephs will face the winner of a first-round match between Norwich and Husson.
After such an exciting conference tournament, the team is focused on the rest of the postseason. “This week we’re just going to practicing hard,” said Colesanti. “I’m not sure who’s going to win [between] Norwich and Husson, but I know that everyone on the team knows that we need to win in order to advance. Every game is one step closer to a national championship, which is our ultimate goal.”