Men’s soccer (6-2, 3-2 in the NESCAC) began the month of October with two solid wins, defeating Skidmore 1-0 on Saturday after dispatching Middlebury 2-1 on Oct. 1.
Last Saturday, Williams took on Skidmore in an afternoon game on Cole Field. The men took it right to Skidmore early on in the first half. Just four minutes into the game, Williams created its first chance, as Matt Muralles ’15 lofted a free kick to the back post that was met by forward Matt Kastner ’14 who sent his shot into the side netting.
The game remained scoreless, though, with Skidmore creating chances as well. The Ephs thought they had struck first in the 34th minute when Rashid Mohammed ’16 slotted a shot under the Skidmore keeper, but he was ruled offside. The move started when left back Andres Burbank-Crump ’15, who minutes earlier had curled a free kick inches wide of the post, lofted a long pass across the field to the ever industrious midfielder Nathan Miller ’15. Miller laid off a beautiful one-touch pass to Muralles, who played a defense-splitting through ball to Mohammed, but unfortunately the flag went up.
Williams emerged from halftime with its offense beginning to click on all cylinders. Nine minutes into the second half, they finally found their long-awaited goal. Muralles played a corner kick to the near post where he found an unmarked Kastner, whose dipping header landed in the back of the net, giving the men a 1-0 lead. The Ephs had a few more opportunities to double their lead in the second half. Forward User Kushaina ’14 sent a shot from close range over the bar, and Muralles had a surefire goal blocked. However, the men’s one goal would prove decisive, as they held on for another shutout win.
On Oct. 1, the men traveled to rival Middlebury for an extremely important NESCAC game. The Panthers started strong, dominating possession from the start of the game. However, the Ephs scored first against the run of play. Zack Grady ’15 was fouled about 30 yards from goal, and Burbank-Crump swerved the ensuing free kick with his talented left foot around the wall and past the diving Middlebury keeper.
Despite conceding first, Middlebury responded well, continuing to retain possession and put pressure on the Williams goal. In the 30th minute, a Panther free kick found the head of Greg Conrad, whose header was saved at full stretch by goalkeeper and co-captain Peter Morrell ’14. The men’s defense, led by Luke Pierce ’15 and co-captain Dan Lima ’14, saw out the rest of the half with the lead still intact.
The second half became a more end-to-end affair, as the Ephs searched for a second goal and the Panthers desperately tried to find an equalizer. Williams had the first chance just three minutes into the half when Muralles played in Kastner with a lovely through ball. However, the Middlebury keeper impressively parried his shot. In the 63rd minute, the Panthers almost equalized as Morrell blocked a shot right into the middle of his box. It found Conrad, who just pushed his shot wide of the post.
In the 85th minute the Panthers finally broke through the Ephs’ defense as they too converted a free kick to knot the score at 1-1. Not willing to give up another late 1-0 lead to a NESCAC opponent on the road, the Ephs responded brilliantly. Two minutes later, Mohammed stole a pass deep in the Panther territory. He then played a through ball to Muralles, who buried his shot into the back of the net for the winning goal.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when they tied it but we were able to maintain composure and win the game,” Head Coach Mike Russo said. “That in my mind was the highlight of the game.”
Williams travels to Wesleyan for a game this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Then, the men travel to Bowdoin for another away game on Sunday at 12 p.m.