Ephs surge down stretch with 2 wins

Men’s soccer (8-3-2, 5-2-2 in the NESCAC) claimed two victories last weekend over RPI and Colby. The men defeated RPI 2-0 last Sunday after edging Colby 1-0 in a tight home contest on senior day last Saturday. 

User Kushaina ’14
User Kushaina ’14 helped the men turn in two shutout victories last weekend. The Eph set up the men’s second goal against RPI on Sunday with a cross to Peter Christman ’13. Photo by Todd Brenner.

Sunday’s affair featured a full-throttle Williams attack throughout the first half: The team created seven shots in 45 minutes. However, they could not find the back of the net. The men finally scored early in the second half after co-captain Nick Pugliese ’12 won possession and played a through ball to Peter Christman ’13 near midfield. Christman then slid a pass to Patrick Ebobisse ’13, who fired the ball toward net. The effort was blocked by an RPI defender and rolled back to Christman, who rocketed a first-time strike into the upper right-hand corner. The score put the men up 1-0 in the 52nd minute.

Less than seven minutes later, Christman struck again. In the 59th minute, User Kushaina ’14 beat his man into the penalty box on the right and crossed it to a streaking Christman. The Eph slid through the ball and knocked it past Engineer goalkeeper Rob Dewald to extend the Ephs’ lead to 2-0.

RPI managed to generate a few late shots but could not hit the target, and Williams earned the 2-0 victory.

“We possessed the ball much better [than on Saturday] and consistently put pressure on their defenders,” Pugliese said.

There were 16 fouls in the match and no yellow cards. Than Finan ’13 earned his third consecutive clean sheet.

“This game might have been our best team effort yet: Everyone got in the game,” Pugliese said.

The win at RPI kept Williams perfect on the weekend, as the team beat Colby on Saturday. The match began with the Ephs applying offensive pressure early on. Christman was tripped running into the right edge of the box,  and the referee awarded Williams a penalty kick in the 13th minute. Philip Vestergaard ’12 stepped up and buried the spot kick, giving Williams a 1-0 lead early in the first half.

Near the end of the first, Colby applied pressure on the Williams defenders. The Mules maintained possession as the half waned, crossing the ball frequently and earning several corner kicks. Finan came off his line to make a couple of key plays to preserve the men’s lead going into halftime.

Six minutes into the second, Zach Grady ’15 picked up a yellow card following a brief altercation in the corner of the field. Just two minutes later, he picked up a second yellow, and therefore a red card, for a slide tackle in midfield. The Ephs were forced to play with 10 players for the remainder of the game.

“Playing down a man for the last 37 minutes is never easy,” Pugliese said, “but [the difficulty] was compounded by Colby’s surprisingly good possession, switching the field and pushing up to attack.”

For the final 30 minutes, the Mules pressed an undermanned Eph squad with offensive attacks. In the 84th minute, Mule Andrew Meisel stepped up for a dangerous free kick just outside the penalty box. His strike deflected off a player and sailed above the head of Finan, who tipped the ball up and off the crossbar. The rebound went to another Mule player, whose volley on net was cleared by Michael Madding ’15. Colby had a few more chances as the clock ticked down, but Williams’ defense held strong and the men walked away with the win.

Though Williams recorded the 1-0 victory, the matchup was statistically even. Williams had seven shots, six corners and three saves; Colby had eight shots, seven corners and three saves. The quads combined for 21 fouls. Grady received the only two yellow cards of the contest.

Williams will play Middlebury on Wednesday in its final regular season match at 2 p.m. The men are tied for third in the NESCAC, but their opponent for the first round of the NESCAC playoffs has not yet been determined.