Ephs storm past Jumbos to NESCAC semis

Men’s soccer (9-3-3, 6-2-3 in the NESCAC) fought from behind last Saturday to drop Tufts 2-1 in a NESCAC quarterfinal. The victory came after a scoreless draw at Middlebury in the final regular season game on Oct. 26.

User Kushaina ’14 rifled the ball past Jumbo keeper Alan Bersntein, knotting Saturday’s game 1-1.
User Kushaina ’14 rifled the ball past Jumbo keeper Alan Bersntein, knotting Saturday’s game 1-1. Photo by Caleb Baer.

Williams entered Saturday as the No. 4 seed in the NESCAC tournament, taking on Tufts, the No. 5 seed, at home. The Ephs dominated early on, outshooting the Jumbos 8-2 in the first 25 minutes of play. User Kushaina ’14 was able to free himself for three one-on-ones with Tufts goalkeeper Alan Bernstein, but each missed the mark on each opportunity. In the 15th minute, Patrick Ebobisse ’13 saw his effort from the top right of the box rebound to teammate Dan Lima ’14. Lima’s attempt deflected off Bernstein and hit the goalpost before a pair of Tufts defenders cleared it.

Despite the menacing Williams attack, Tufts struck first in the 21st minute. Jumbo Kento Nakamura curled a corner toward the near post from the left side. The kick bounced off an Eph defender before sailing to Jumbo John Lewis at the right corner of the six. Lewis headed the ball across the six to teammate Peter Lee Kramer, who drove a powerful header past keeper Than Finan ’13 to put the Jumbos up 1-0.

The teams shared possession equally for the rest of the half, but neither team managed to score. Bernstein had six saves in the first to give Tufts a 1-0 halftime lead.

The men opened the second with a series of scoring chances. The best came in the 50th minute when Ebobisse knocked a corner kick into the box. Lima got his head on the ball in the center of the six-yard box. Bernstein stopped the effort with a reflex save, extending into the top right corner of goal to tip the ball over the bar.

The men applied pressure all half, keeping Bernstein on edge. Finally, in the 81st minute, Williams broke through. Philip Vestergaard ’12 took a free kick from just inside midfield. The ball found Kushaina at the top of the 18. The forward dribbled it deep into the right side of the box, spun and unleashed a strike. The ball rocketed under Bernstein and snuck inside the near post to even the game at 1-1 as the men entered the final minutes of regulation.

Two minutes later, Williams earned a free corner kick. Peter Christman ’13 took it from the left side, and his kick arced over the box, dipping at the back post. Bernstein came off his line to clear the ball, but he could only get a hand on the cross. Doug Weinrib ’13, coming off the bench, was in a fortuitous position for the Ephs. He connected with the ball on the far side of the six, sliding the ball into the net in the 83rd minute to lift the Ephs to a 2-1 advantage.

The Ephs’ defense held strong, earning them a NESCAC semifinal berth.

“[This] was one of the greatest soccer games I’ve been a part of here at Williams,” co-captain Matt Ratajczak ’13 said. “It was a total team effort, and I can’t say enough about the character and heart of this team.”

The thrilling victory in the quarterfinals came after Williams battled to a 0-0 draw at Middlebury on Oct. 26 The Panthers took control early, outshooting the Ephs 11-1 in the first and threatening from multiple set pieces in the opening 19 minutes of the match. Williams struggled to contain Middlebury, allowing a harrowing chance in the 35th minute. A Panther directed a free kick from just inside midfield into the 18-yard box, where the ball bounced around and was headed on net. Finan made a diving save to preserve the scoreless tie. The Ephs’ keeper turned in four saves to keep the game scoreless heading to the second.

The contest was more even in the next 45 minutes, as both squads registered four shots in the half. Finan picked up another three saves. The keeper made a pair of great saves in the 89th and 90th minutes to force an extra period.

The Ephs’ best scoring opportunity came two minutes into the first overtime period. A lobbed through ball to Kushaina allowed the forward to outpace his defender and face the Middlebury keeper one-on-one in the box. The goalie charged Kushaina and exploded off the line, securing the ball before the Eph could fire a shot. Despite a few scoring chances for both sides, the game finished in a 0-0 draw.

The game against Middlebury was an extremely hard fought match,” Ratajczak said. “We defended very well as a team and showed a lot of heart. Even though we didn’t get the win, we did get a result which was huge in that it gave us a home game this past Saturday.”

Williams will face Trinity, the tourney’s No. 3 seed, in the NESCAC semifinal at Amherst on Saturday at 11 a.m.