Defense drives women’s soccer to scoreless stalemate

Kristi Kirshe ’17 had two shots on goal in the women’s 0-0 draw with Amherst last Saturday. -Photo Courtesy of Sports Information
Kristi Kirshe ’17 had two shots on goal in the women’s 0-0 draw with Amherst last Saturday. -Photo Courtesy of Sports Information

Women’s soccer (2-1-2, NESCAC 1-1-1) faced rival Amherst on Saturday at Cole Field. Similar to the men’s game before it, 90 minutes was not enough for either team to show its superiority over the other. Even 20 minutes more proved not to be enough for either the Ephs or the Jeffs to find a way through the opposing team’s rock-solid back lines, as the game ended in a 0-0 draw in double overtime.

Right out of the gates, each team looked hungry for a goal, but neither team had anything to show for it after the first 20 minutes. It was at that point that Head Coach Michelyne Pinard subbed in a slew of rookies, who sparked life into the whole team.

Only minutes later the women had their first good chance at the Amherst goal. After some nice dribbling down the left wing, Maddie Swarr ’17 crossed a ball onto the far post, where fellow rookie Katie Wardlaw ’17 connected her laces with the ball. However, Wardlaw’s defender did just enough to ensure that she could not get her shot on goal, as it went just right of the goalpost. Minutes later, Kristi Kirshe ’17 had a nice shot blocked by an Amherst defender.

Inspired by some strong defensive play, Amherst began to create some good offensive chances of its own. With under five minutes left on the clock in the first half, a great one-two by the Jeffs gave Emma Rothkopf several yards of space in the middle of the Ephs’ defensive line only 20 yards away from goal. Rothkopf’s ensuing shot was fired well toward goal, but Hannah Van Wetter ’15 saved the attempt without much difficulty.

After halftime, Williams returned to holding the majority of the scoring opportunities. In spite of the plethora of possession and opportunities they had, the women still had nothing to show for their work halfway through the second half.

Amherst goalkeeper Holly Burwick was called into action to make an impressive save in the 67th minute, when Gabby Suarez ’17 created a chance for herself from the right side of the box as she rocketed a low shot toward the left post. The shot drew a clean save from Burwick to keep the Ephs from scoring.

More good shots were to come for the Ephs, as only minutes later the women forced Burwick to make another beauty of a save. Crystal Lewin ’16 lobbed a nice throughball up to the top-left side of the Jeffs’ 18-yard box where co-captain Carla Nicasio ’14 received the ball, took a touch and fired her shot at the upper-right corner of the Jeffs’ goal. However, Burwick leapt and got just enough of her hands on the ball to keep it from going in.

Similar to the first half, Amherst was inspired by the strong play of its defense and created several great offensive chances in the dying moments of the half. As the clock ticked down on regulation play, Jeff striker Chloe McKenzie aggressively drove up the field once more into the Ephs’ defensive third. McKenzie slid the ball over to fellow Jeff Sarah Duffy, whose shot was easily saved by Van Wetter.

Undismayed by the fruitless efforts of regular time, both teams came out with even more intensity in the overtime periods, determined to earn the victory. The Ephs had several solid counterattack opportunities, but each chance ended with an in-form Jeff defense gobbling up the ball before too much havoc could be created.

The back-and-forth play continued, and Van Wetter made a pair of saves as time wound down to ensure that the game would end in a draw.

“Hannah [Van Wetter] is playing with a confidence that we need her to play with,” Pinard said. “She’s playing some of her best soccer since she’s been here. It’s just a presence on and off the ball. Her communication, her leadership, her positioning – everything is where it needs to be, and she came up big for us today.”

The women outshot Amherst 13 to 12, but Amherst had seven shots on goal to Williams’ five. Each team shared the spoils in corners with six apiece.

“I thought we executed our game plan perfectly,” Pinard said. “I think we did a lot of damage in the midfield, and I think we did a good job finding feet. Defensively, we took care of their dangerous players, which I thought was great. I just think we need to not be so concerned about being pretty on top of the 18. I think we just need to get shots on frame and see what comes of it.”

The women next play NESCAC rival Conn. College on Saturday at 12 p.m. on Cole Field.