Men’s soccer (1-0, 1-0 in the NESCAC) started the season off on the right foot with a last-minute victory over Wesleyan on Saturday. The game went into double overtime before the Ephs edged out the Cardinals 2-1 for their first win of the season.
Co-captain Gaston Kelly ’11 opened the scoring up for the Ephs in the 16th minute: Forward Charlie Romero ’11 fired the ball across the field to Kelly, who took a left-footed shot that slipped past Cardinal goalkeeper Adam Purdy. Despite Wesleyan outshooting Williams 11-3 on the half, the men closed out the first 45 minutes still up 1-0. Romero and Kelly’s strong early performances are indicative of their long-standing leadership on the field: The seniors tallied the most goals of all of the team’s returning players. Romero notched 12 goals and six assists last season while Kelly scored six goals and made 15 assists.
The Ephs held the Cardinals scoreless through most of the second half, but Wesleyan powered the ball into the upper right-hand corner of the net past Andrew Lyons-Berg ’11 for a goal in the 79th minute. The 1-1 tie sent the two teams into overtime.
“We were very fortunate to win, as Wesleyan played well,” Head Coach Michael Russo said of Saturday’s play. “They were better than us in the first half, but we scored against the run of play. We were better in the second half as we started to control the ball better and settled down.”
Aggressive overtime play still didn’t yield a goal for Williams until the end of the second overtime. Nine Williams shots in extra time outpaced Wesleyan’s one attempt; the Ephs also held an advantage after Cardinal Cabell Maddux received a red card in the second overtime. Just a minute and a half later, with merely six seconds left on the clock, Kiel Bonhomme ’11 controlled a corner kick from Matt Ratajczak ’13 to rocket a shot past Wesleyan’s goalie for a last-minute 2-1 win. Bonhomme was named NESCAC Men’s Soccer Player of the Week for his performance in Saturday’s game.
Lyons-Berg totaled seven saves in the win. The senior goalkeeper started two games and played in six matches overall last year in his position as the backup goalie for recent graduate Andrew Graham ’10. The Eph will share time in the net this season with teammate Than Finan ’13.
“The team played hard against Wesleyan,” co-captain Joe Vella ’11 said. “The first half was a wakeup call for us. They came out much faster and stronger than we did, and that’s something we can’t let happen.”
Despite the team’s impressive start to the season, Russo has his hopes set on continued success and is refusing to let his team get complacent. “[Last weekend] was a great victory against a very good team, but we know we have to get better. Our goals are to win the NESCAC regular season and tournament, although that will be very difficult, as the league is the strongest in the nation,” he said.
Vella echoed his coach’s sentiments regarding the team’s aspirations this fall. “The first goal of the season is to win the NESCAC,” he said. Going even further, Vella said that “we would like to host the NESCAC tournament and then make a run at the national championship.”
As for how the early win bodes for the rest of the season, Russo again refused to entertain any idea of coasting on the victory: “It is too early to know how this victory impacts this season, although it does indicate [that] we have a mental tenacity, which I believe will help us in future matches.”
Vella again supported his coach’s statements, saying that “the win over Wesleyan does not change our goals for the season. Wesleyan is just one of the several great teams in the league.”
After a showing in the NCAA Final Four last fall, the men are looking to hold steady after the graduation of six strong players last spring. Co-captains Kelly and Vella will lead a team comprised of a number of first-years and sophomores; the Ephs will see eight newcomers vying for spots on the line-up this season.
“Charlie Romero and Gaston Kelly will be big for us this year,” Vella said when asked about key contributors this season. “When those two are on their game, they are very difficult to defend. Ultimately, though, it will be how we play as a team that determines our success, not a couple of players.”
Williams will travel to New Paltz State for a game tonight and continue the week with a 1 p.m. Saturday game at Conn. College before the team steps onto Cole Field for its first home game of the season against Babson at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.