Women’s soccer (15-0-0, 9-0-0 in the NESCAC), ranked No. 1 in the country by NSCAA, trounced Colby (6-8-1, 2-7-1) 4-0 in the NESCAC quarterfinals to extend its perfect season. The win comes on the heels of a challenging 1-0 victory over Middlebury in Vermont last Friday.
On Sunday, Williams established the tone of the game 23 seconds in, when tri-captain Sarah Walmsley ’10 recovered a ball deflected off a Colby defender and hit a rocket into the bottom corner for the first goal.
Only 12 minutes later, Sara Wild ’11 headed a Kara Duggan ’11 free kick to Brett Eisenhart ’12, who sent the ball into the back of the net. The fierce Williams attack then continued when eight minutes later, Tyler Rainer ’11, picking up a feed from Eisenhart, went one-on-one with the keeper and sent a hard shot down the middle into the goal. The team entered the break leading 3-0.
In the second half, aggressive offensive play helped Williams maintain its dominance. Though the Mules matched the Ephs’ intensity, they couldn’t rival Williams’ ball control and communication on the field.
Colby’s defense managed to contain the Williams offense for most of the second half, forcing four offside calls and holding the Ephs to only one more goal. Sam Vilboa ’13 scored for Williams at the 66-minute mark, firing a shot into the bottom corner on a breakaway off a through ball by Snyder.
Even though Williams’ scoring tapered after halftime, the Ephs still kept up their offensive momentum to dominate the second half with many shots on goal. Colby had only two shots against Williams goalkeeper Lauren Sinnenberg ’10, who blocked both for her 12th shutout of the season.
Sunday’s win occurred after a hard-fought win against Middlebury, ranked third in the NESCAC, on Friday afternoon. For the first time all season, the Ephs were outshot by an opponent, as the Panthers had 15 shots to the Ephs’ five. Despite a lesser offensive presence, however, Williams still came out on top. Late in the 87th minute, Walmsley found Snyder on the right-hand side of the field, who then nailed the ball into the opposite corner of the goal to notch the victory. Sinnenberg and her defense deserve the most credit for the triumph: Sinnenberg made seven saves to keep the Ephs in the game.
Tri-captain Duggan commented on the stark difference between Friday and Sunday. “We were just really excited to get on the field [Sunday] after Friday when we struggled so much,” she said. “We wanted to get out there and improve [our game].”
Head Coach Michelyne Pinard also admitted that Friday’s performance wasn’t up to the Ephs’ standards. “This was the best Middlebury team I’ve seen since I’ve been coaching, and we just struggled to do the little things that made us successful in the past,” she said. “On Sunday we got back to basics . . . and just took care of the ball.”
Friday’s victory over Middlebury ensured Williams’ No. 1 conference ranking, opening the door to the possibility of hosting NESCACs at Cole Field. The team’s decisive win over Colby means that both this Saturday’s semifinals and Sunday’s championship games will be played at Williams. “It’s definitely helpful to play [at home],” Duggan said. “We love being at Cole Field and having the fans there.”
Now more than ever, the Ephs are looking ahead towards this weekend’s games and capitalizing on the strength of their season. “We just really need to focus on competing at the highest level . . . in order to mimic the play we saw against Tufts [earlier in the season],” Duggan said. “[This week] we need to do whatever it takes in practice to get [the] competitive edge.”
“It’s November,” Pinard said. “Our team is really excited to play playoff soccer . . . We recognize we are capable of playing national caliber soccer, but that we have to work hard to make sure we take care of [each and every] game.”
Williams will face No. 4 seed Tufts (9-6-1, 5-4-1) at 11 a.m. this Saturday at Cole Field in the NESCAC semifinals. Middlebury and Amherst will play at 12:30 p.m., and the respective winners of the two games will face off at noon on Sunday for the championship.