Ephs fall to rival Panthers in NESCAC final

Tri-captain Carla Nicasio ’14 had a shot on goal in the women’s 1-0 loss to Middlebury on Sunday. - Photo Courtesy of Sports Information
Tri-captain Carla Nicasio ’14 had a shot on goal in the women’s 1-0 loss to Middlebury on Sunday. – Photo Courtesy of Sports Information

Women’s soccer (12-3-2 overall, 7-2-1 in the NESCAC) concluded its NESCAC season, reaching the finals of the championship tournament. The women beat Trinity 2-0 on Saturday, but ultimately fell 1-0 to hosts and No. 1 seed Middlebury on Sunday.

On Saturday afternoon, the women booked their place in the final with a dominating 2-0 win over Trinity. On Sept. 14, the Bantams had defeated the Ephs 2-0, and the women came out looking for revenge. Kristi Kirshe ’17 had the first good look on goal from a corner kick, but Monica Difiori, the Bantams’ goalkeeper, pushed the ball around the outside of the post. Minutes later, Audrey Thomas ’17 hit a screamer from just outside the box, but the shot was tipped over the bar by Dilfiori.

In the 24th minute, the women finally got on the score sheet. After Difiori saved a few shots in a row, the ball fell to the feet of Crystal Lewin ’16, who slid the ball into the left side of the goal, giving the Ephs a 1-0 lead.

The second half was just as dominant for the women. Mai Mitsuyama ’16 found tri-captain Hayley Cook ’14, whose cross met with the head of Kirshe. However, Difiori made yet another save. The rebound fell to Kirshe, who had another attempt on target, but Difiori again kept the ball out of the net.

In the 55th minute, Kirshe finally got her goal. After Difiori made a save from a free kick by Mitsuyama, Kirshe headed the rebound into the goal to double the Ephs’ lead.

On the day, netminder Hannah Van Wetter ’15 had four saves and Difiori recorded nine. The women took 17 shots, while Trinity could only muster six.

“Trinity is a great team, but we were able to get the momentum pretty early in that game and hold it throughout,” Head Coach Michelyne Pinard said. “Everyone played well and when everyone on our team is playing well, we’re a tough team to handle.”

On Sunday, the conference finals matchup with Middlebury was hotly contested right from the start. Both teams came out with energy and created a few chances. Kirshe put a shot on frame in the 12th minute, but an excellent fingertip save from Panther goalkeeper Elizabeth Foody sent the ball over the crossbar.

Kirshe had another good look minutes later after Thomas sent a through ball behind Middlebury’s defense. Foody, however, was quick off her line and prevented Kirshe from giving the Ephs a lead.

In the 39th minute, Van Wetter was forced into action, tipping the ball away from goal after a long-range shot by Sarah Noble. Van Wetter could not put the ball out of the danger zone, and Carter Talgo hammered home the rebound to put the Panthers up 1-0.

In the second half, the Ephs looked more threatening offensively, but no opportunities came to fruition as a combination of near misses and brilliant saves from Foody kept the Ephs off the scoreboard.

As the clock wound down, the women continued to be aggressive. In the 84th minute, Mistuyama sent a free kick into the box from 35 yards out. The Panthers were unable to clear their lines, and the ball fell to Thomas, who had a free header in the middle of the box. However, Thomas’ shot went over the crossbar.

The game ended 1-0 in favor of Middlebury, as the women were unable to capitalize on additional opportunities before the full-time whistle. Williams outshot Middlebury 10 to four and had five shots on target to Middlebury’s four. Van Wetter made three saves, while Foody was forced into action five times.

“We played a great game against Middlebury, taking away almost all of their dangerous opportunities and creating a lot of our own,” said Pinard. “We have made incredible strides in so many ways as a team, and moving forward, we are going to refocus on those really important goal scoring moments, finishing ours and eliminating theirs. That will be essential if we are going to make a run at the National championship.”

Williams qualified for the Div. III NCAA tournament and will host Lesley on Saturday in the first round of the tourney. Williams is currently ranked No. 17 in Div. III.