Defense stands strong, fuels 1-0 victory over Bobcats

On Saturday, men’s soccer (9-4, 6-3 in the NESCAC) hosted Bates in a NESCAC battle that ended in a 1-0 win for the men. Last Wednesday the men traveled to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) for an important non-conference game. The men lost that game 3-2 in overtime.

On Saturday, Bates came to Williams seeking its first league win of the season, but the men would not let this happen. Thirty minutes into the game, the Ephs opened up the scoring via a header from Jonathan Westling ’16. The play started when Malcolm Moutenot ’17 lobbed a pass down the right wing that was met by the streaking Westling, who proceeded to smash his cross over everyone’s heads and into the box. Luckily Patrick Gordon ’17 stopped the ball from traveling out of bounds, and he crossed the ball to the back post, where Westling was waiting unmarked to tap the ball into an empty net.

The men had 13 shots alone in the first half, but they were unable to double their lead as they saw out a 1-0 lead heading into halftime. Just two minutes into the second half the Ephs had a golden opportunity to double their lead. Matt Muralles ’15 skipped by two defenders on the left wing and then laid the ball off for Mohammed Rashid ’16. Rashid crossed the ball right across the six-yard box where he found Moutenot unmarked. Moutenot sailed his shot over the crossbar, with the Bobcat goalie seemingly way out of position.

Bates, though, would not go away quietly, and in the 57th minute, they nearly equalized on a counterattack. A cross from the right wing landed at the feet of Bobcat Sean Moyo, who ripped a shot that seemed destined for the upper left corner of the goal. However co-captain and goalkeeper Peter Morrell ’14 made a terrific diving stop to preserve the lead.

Zack Grady ’15 almost doubled the men’s lead 15 minutes later, but a Bobcat defender cleared his shot off the line. The Eph defense, lead by Geoff Danilack ’16 and Luke Pierce ’15 saw out the rest of the game, as Morrell picked up another shutout. The win brought Williams to 6-3 in NESCAC play and 9-4 overall.

Last Wednesday, the men traveled to RPI for what turned out to be one of their more exciting games of the season. The Ephs did not start the game well, looking a little flat as they conceded a goal only nine minutes into the game. Engineer Alex Dotseth opened the scoring by curling a left-footed shot around Morrell for a 1-0 lead.

After a very lackluster start, the Eph offense finally began to wake up in the last minutes of the first half. User Kushaina ’14 played a pass to Westling, who charged straight at the heart of the Engineer defense before playing Chris Conder ’15 through on the left wing. Conder raced to the touchline where he played a cross to the near post that was met by local talent Brandon Dory ’16. Dory made no mistake in heading the ball into the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1.

The Ephs rode this wave of momentum into the second half, dominating possession and creating ample chances, as it seemed only a matter of time before they took the lead. The goal came in the 62nd minute courtesy of Matt Kastner ’14, fresh off his NESCAC player of the week performance. Rashid received a pass on the right flank, where he played a perfect pass to an onrushing Kastner who delicately eased the ball into the right corner of the net, as Williams took a well-deserved 2-1 lead.

The Engineers responded very quickly, tying the game five minutes later on what proved to be their only chance of the second half. A cross by Engineer Nathaniel Gunderson found Vince Bennet at the penalty spot unmarked. He took a touch and fired past a helpless Morrell to knot the score at 2-2. Despite the goal, Williams dominated possession for the rest of the half, but could not manage to find an equalizer.

In overtime the Engineers won the game after only four minutes. Bennet again beat Morrell with another close range shot.

“Throughout this year, we have shown a lot of resilience,” Head Coach Mike Russo said. “The last three or four games we’ve fallen behind 1-0, and except for the game against RPI, we’ve come back to win the games. Our guys do have a good mentality and are able to deal with setbacks well. It was a tough loss to RPI earlier in the week, and they played well and we did not. But we responded well against Bates, creating numerous goal-scoring opportunists. I was disappointed we didn’t capitalize more, but we did score the one that won the game.”

Williams will host Hamilton on this Wednesday in their final game of the regular season. Williams is currently tied for third in the NESCAC with Wesleyan. Amherst tops the standings with a 7-0-2 conference record and an 11-0-2 overall record.