Women’s lacrosse (14-4, 7-3 in the NESCAC) fell to undefeated Amherst in the semifinals of the NESCAC tournament on Saturday by a score of 9-4. In its first trip to the NESCAC semifinals in four years, and after missing the tournament altogether for the past two, Williams made a tremendous run this year that ended with a hard-fought battle against a talented Amherst squad.
Defensive play dominated the first half, as both teams failed to generate offensive momentum. Amherst’s Rachel Passarelli netted the first goal of the game to put her team up 1-0 early on. Passarelli added her second goal of the game a few minutes later off of an assist from teammate Elizabeth Ludlow. The Eph defense held strong after the early Jeff offensive and a save from tri-captain Ali Piltch ’14 allowed the Ephs to gain possession on their attacking end.
An initial shot by attacker Natalie Gill ’16 ricocheted off the post but Nancy Palmer ’15 scooped up the ball and converted it to the first goal of the game for the Ephs and cut the Jeffs’ lead to one. Amherst held possession for over two minutes on its end until Alex Phillie took a pass from Krista Zsitvay and scored to put their team up 3-1 with 2:15 left in the half. The Ephs went into the locker room at halftime down two goals but still very much alive and eager to mount a comeback.
After losing the draw control at the opening of the second half, Williams regained possession and midfielder Rebecca Bell ’15 scored her 11th goal of the season when she fired a low shot to bring her team within one goal. However, Amherst’s Passarelli continued her scoring spree as she netted back-to-back goals within two minutes to give her four goals on the day and bring the score to 5-2. A goal by Hillary Cook ’15 off a free position shot cut into the Amherst lead, but the momentum wouldn’t last long. The Jeffs went on to score four unanswered goals, one by Passarelli and another by Phillie, to put the game out of reach and extinguish the Ephs’ hopes of mounting a late comeback. A late goal scored by attacker Bridget Malicki ’15 would give her 27 goals on the year and ended up being the last of the season for the Ephs. The game ended by a score of 9-4 in favor of the Jeffs.
Piltch finished with nine saves on the game, bringing her season total to an outstanding 123 in over 1000 minutes played. Tri-captain Rebecca McGovern ’14 capped off her final season with 35 goals and finished as the team’s leading scorer.
“Amherst is an incredibly talented team and I think we hung with them the entire time and showed a lot of heart,” Piltch said. “Some things didn’t go our way, but we played an entire 60 minutes of Eph lacrosse.”
It was an incredible regular season for women’s lacrosse, which significantly improved this season to finish with a .700 winning percentage. The team finished with 170 goals and 73 assists, averaging an impressive 10 goals per game. The 13-win season marked the first time the Ephs have won 13 games since the 2009 campaign.
“Even though we were disappointed to get knocked out on Saturday, we were so happy and proud to have made it to the semifinals,” McGovern said. “It was the senior class’s first time making it that far.”
Last Sunday, the women were awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA Div. III tournament, their first since 2010. It will be the Ephs sixth trip to the NCAA tournament, where they have compiled a 7-5 record, finishing second twice in both 1998 and 2000. “Being able to extend our season even further is so exciting,” McGovern said. The women will host a second round game at Cole Field on Saturday where they will face the winner of Wheaton and Emmanuel. The women have not faced either team yet this season.
“We are incredibly excited about our NCAA bid,” Piltch said. “Saturday starts a whole new season, and it’s the first time we’ve made the tournament in four years, and we’re just enjoying the ride.”