Men’s soccer (6-0-1, 4-0-1 in the NESCAC) dispatched Utica at home 1-0 on Friday in a non-conference match. Playing into overtime, the Ephs demonstrated tenacity and dedication as they triumphed over the Pioneers.
With co-captains Peter Christman ’13 and Matt Ratajczak ’13 out of the game resting injuries, the Ephs found exceptional leadership in Patrick Ebobisse ’13. The senior displayed relentless dominance throughout the game, taking control of the ball very early on and ultimately scoring the only goal of the game.
“[Ebobisse] stepped up incredibly well. No one doubted his ability to lead the guys on the field at all. I thought he was great,” Ratajczak said. “He is one of the most fierce competitors we have on the team. When it gets down to game time, he is every bit there.”
The game opened with the Ephs immediately taking advantage of corner kicks, aiming to gain an early lead on the Pioneers. Despite shot attempts by Michael Madding ’15 and Noah Grumman ’16, whose header nearly gave the Ephs an advantage, the men were unable to score. User Kushaina ’14 also had an opportunity to put Williams on the scoreboard, but his attempt fell short when a Utica fullback stopped the ball short of the goal.
Utica, also displaying prowess on the field, kept netminder Than Finan ’13 on his toes. However, Finan, who thwarted two attempts on goal in a matter of minutes and stopped three shots in total on the game, would not allow the Pioneers to break through his defenses. Despite their dominating play during the first half, the men ultimately went into the break still tied with Utica at 0-0.
The second period saw a change in the Williams lineup as Peter Morrell ’14 substituted for Finan as goalkeeper. Morrell’s skill was immediately put to the test as Utica quickly took charge of the ball and attempted to break through the men’s defenses. With some effective teamwork between Morrell and Chris Conder ’15, the Ephs ensured that the Pioneers did not take the lead in the second half. Rather, a volley for control ensued as both teams attempted to break the stalemate.
Ratajczak praised the whole backline for their effort. “Their discipline adds a new dimension to our attack, even as defenders, which makes us very dangerous going forward,” he said.
The Ephs nearly broke the draw when, in the 58th minute, Ebobisse attempted a header into the net off a brilliant assist from Mohammed Rashid ’16. However, the Utica goalkeeper managed to block the shot in the nick of time. The rest of the half resulted in no change in score. For the third time this season, the Ephs found themselves dueling for the win in overtime.
“In our team huddle prior to overtime, [Ebobisse] stated that there was no way we were not going to win that game,” Head Coach Mike Russo said.
Led by a determined Ebobisse, the men entered overtime ready to take the game. Despite the strenuous previous halves, the Ephs maintained their momentum, dominating the extra period early. Ebobisse stole the ball within a minute of play and tried for the goal, but his attempt was blocked.
Unfazed, the senior saw another opportunity as the ball bounced back into an open space where he was able to quickly retrieve it and try for the goal. Ebobisse succeeded in this second attempt, finally lifting the Ephs to a 1-0 score after 91:17 of play. Williams closed out the overtime period with its 1-0 lead, adding another notch to its string of victories.
“Rather than trying to accomplish individual things, the guys have a very mature approach and really gel well with each other. We’re just having fun playing soccer. It has been a tremendous ride so far. We just hope to keep it going,” said Ratajczak.
The men will next play at rival Amherst on Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. and at Bowdoin on Oct. 7 at 1:30 p.m.
“[Amherst] is a game that everyone has been preparing for since the schedule was released, Ratajczak said. The rivalry is something that is way bigger than any of us. We’ll be preparing incredibly thoroughly for this game. It’s motivation to work hard and play hard. We’re very excited for Saturday.”