Men’s soccer tops Camels in 1st round

Men’s soccer (12-2-1) emerged victorious from its first round NESCAC match-up against Conn. College on Sunday, shutting the Camels out 3-0. With Sunday’s win and Friday’s loss to Middlebury, the Ephs are now the 14th-ranked team in the latest NSCAA National Poll.

Coming off of a 1-0 loss to Middlebury on Friday, the Ephs entered the first round of the NESCAC tournament as the second seed. Williams controlled possession and maintained a balanced offensive attack throughout the match, preventing Conn. College from mounting any legitimate goal scoring chances.

The Ephs’ defense continued to adjust to the loss of center back and captain Conor Smith ’10 and shut the Camels down with authority. Phil Vestergaard ’12 was impenetrable on the right flank, winning tackles and dishing great through balls to the midfield, with rookies Peter Eboisse ’13 and Max Ratajczak ’13 adapting quickly and effectively to their new roles on the defense. Joe Vella ’11 remained a rock for the defensive line, controlling the fullbacks and squelching any Camel’s hope for an upset. Keeper Andrew Graham ’10 remained largely untested, facing five shots and making one save.

In the first half, the Ephs threatened early and often. After many other attempts, the offense came together to put Williams up 1-0 in the 25th minute. Nick Pugliese ’12 let loose a ball to Pierre Meloty- Kapella ’10 who passed to Will Whiston ’10. Whiston flicked the ball across the box to the fortuitous foot of Charlie Romero ’11 who precisely placed a volley into the far corner of the net past the Camel goalie. In spite of several crisp crosses from Pugliese and many other counter-attacks in the Camels’ end, the rest of the half remained scoreless.

Looking to obtain a comfortable lead, the Eph offense pounced on the Camels in the second half. After the Camels wasted their possession by blasting a long shot wide, the defense moved the ball quickly up the field with precise passing resulting in a hard shot ripped from the top of the box by Romero. The shot was neatly turned aside by Conn. College’s goalie only to be crushed home by an airborne Gaston Kelly ’11. Twelve minutes later, Kelly placed a perfect corner into the mix that was knocked into the net by Whiston.

Williams continued to push offensively for the rest of the game, but the speed of play was often interrupted as the final minutes wound down. The many substitutions in addition to the Camels’ profanities and outright fouling incited the official to give two yellow cards.

Sunday’s victory showed the resilience of men’s soccer, as the team bounced back from a tough 1-0 loss to Middlebury on Friday. The play was balanced with the Ephs and Panthers totaling eight shots a piece. Williams had four saves compared to Middlebury’s five and eight fouls to the Panthers’ 10.

Although both offenses were pushing hard to open up a lead, Middlebury was the only team to score. The Panthers converted on a free kick outside the box as Middlebury’s Jake Edwards sent a curving left footed rip into the box to the head of Harrison Watkins, decisively heading the ball past Graham. The remaining 73 minutes of the match held legitimate chances for both teams, but neither scored, concluding the day in a 1-0 loss for the Ephs.

“We showed resilience [after Friday’s loss] by regaining our focus and playing very well against Conn. College [on Sunday],” Smith said. “Hopefully we can build on the win and play well against Bowdoin this Saturday at Wesleyan.”

The Ephs will face No. 4 seeded Bowdoin at Wesleyan at 1:30 p.m. to determine who advances to the NESCAC championship.