Women’s soccer blanks Bates in NESCAC matchup

Alison Magruder ’15 contributed three shots on goal and one assist in the women’s 3-0 win over Bates last Saturday at Cole Field.
Alison Magruder ’15 contributed three shots on goal and one assist in the women’s 3-0 win over Bates last Saturday at Cole Field.

Women’s soccer (9-2-2, 6-2-1 in the NESCAC) rebounded from a heartbreaking 1-0 loss at Middlebury on Oct. 22 with a commanding 3-0 victory over Bates on Saturday. Kristi Kirshe ’17 netted the first goal in the 15th minute for the Ephs, and Crystal Lewin ’16 and Hana Tomozawa ’15 added goals in the 57th and 66th minutes, respectively.

Saturday was senior day for the Ephs, and they honored their three seniors, tri-captains Hayley Cook ’14, Abby Conyers ’14 and Carla Nicasio ’14, in fantastic fashion, putting three goals past the Bobcats to seal a 3-0 win in their penultimate game of the season.

Bates had the better of the early chances, taking the first couple of shots in the game. Julia Rafferty struck a curling effort in the fourth minute that forced goalkeeper Hannah Van Wetter ’15 into early action. Minutes later at the other end of the field, Mai Mitsuyama ’16 bent in a free kick from just outside the box that found Kirshe, but her shot flew over the crossbar. However, Kirshe remained lively for the Ephs and soon after her first shot, hit another one. This time, she was on target, but a fine save by Bates goalkeeper Anabel Schmelz kept the Ephs off the scoreboard.

In the 14th minute, a poorly cleared Eph corner fell to Cook, who sent the ball back into the box. Kirshe rose higher than her defender and thumped the ball home to give the women a 1-0 lead. Williams kept up its offensive pressure after the goal, and in the 18th minute, Cook found Alison Magruder ’15 on the left flank. Magruder drove to goal and shot, but another good save by Schmelz denied her a goal.

Just before the break, Nicasio put Magruder in behind the Bobcats defense, but Schmelz again was there to prevent the Ephs from scoring again. The ensuing counterattack saw a Bates striker barely miss wide, and the half ended with no further breakthroughs and Williams still leading 1-0.

“Scoring early always takes the pressure off us and puts it on the other team,” Head Coach Michelyne Pinard said. “It’s soccer, so goals are precious, and it was great to get one early. The early goal allowed us to settle in and play calmly through the middle third of the field.”

Bates came out of halftime looking sharper and more energetic. In the opening few minutes, the Ephs created another opportunity, this time with Magruder sending a through ball to Lewin on the right of the box. However, Schmelz again looked unbeatable as she easily dove to her right to make the save from Lewin’s shot.

In the 57th minute, Magruder found Lewin again, this time on the left-hand touchline. Lewin sent a cross into the box, looking for fellow Eph attackers. Schmelz came to get the ball, but made a mess of her punch and ended up deflecting the ball into her own net. Nevertheless, the Ephs celebrated their doubled advantage.

The women continued to press forward, and nine minutes later, Audrey Thomas ’17 crossed the ball into the box from the right flank. Tomozawa had made a brilliant run and found herself with a few yards of space in the middle of the box, where she made no mistake in punishing the Bobcats defense for its lack of marking with a powerful header to make the score 3-0, a lead that Bates would fail to recover from.

Despite being three goals behind, Bates continued to look for chances on goal to get back into the match. Kara Stefaniak had another good attempt on goal, but once again, Van Wetter was in a good position to make the save and retain the shutout. Neither team had any additional clear-cut chances at the end of the half, and the game ended with the score still at 3-0 in favor of the Ephs.

“Scoring goals isn’t easy, the fact that we were getting great chances was amazing,” said Pinard. “Our goal is to focus on how we can score rather than getting frustrated when it isn’t happening.”

Overall, Williams had 26 shots to Bates’ six. Schmelz made nine saves, while Van Wetter was only called upon thrice.

On Oct. 22, the Ephs traveled to Middlebury, Vt., to take on the first-place Panthers. The game looked to be headed into extra time before a 90th-minute goal from Scarlett Kirk handed the women a 1-0 loss. The women controlled the game early on, and Magruder had a few chances but was unable to convert. A corner from Mitsuyama was poorly cleared by the Middlebury defense, and Thomas struck on target from the top of the box. However, Panther goalkeeper Elizabeth Foody made the save to keep the game level at zero.

Middlebury finally settled into the game with about 10 minutes to go in the first half. They created a few scoring opportunities, but none came to fruition, as the Ephs defense held firm. Just before halftime, a cross found Lindsey Vandergrift ’16, whose header looked goal-bound before Foody stopped it. However, Foody dropped the ball, and it momentarily was bouncing around inside the six, yet no Ephs were close enough to tap it in before it was cleared.

Both teams had several chances in the second half, and the game was back-and-forth, but both defenses thwarted attack after attack. Three minutes from time, Van Wetter made a nice sliding save and released the Ephs counterattack. Katie Wardlaw ’17 charged into the box and hit a low shot toward the goal, but Foody made a good save of her own to keep the game scoreless.

With just 50 seconds left on the clock, Middlebury found a breakthrough. Kirk was played in behind Williams’ defense, and although Van Wetter was quick off her line, she had no chance as Kirk slotted the ball home and handed the women a 1-0 loss.

“I was very pleased with how much our team learned about itself from the loss at Middlebury,” Pinard said. “We didn’t play great, but we had lots of great chances. It was a heartbreaking way to lose, but it refocused us and lit a fire under us that will continue to propel us.”

Results from the women’s game against Hamilton on Tuesday came in too late for this edition. Williams is currently tied for third in the NESCAC with Bowdoin. Middlebury sits atop the conference with an 8-1-1 record. Amherst is currently in fourth with a 5-1-3 record. The NESCAC tournament begins this weekend.