Ephs pull off two double overtime victories

Last week, men’s soccer (5-4-1, 3-2-0 in the NESCAC) played three drama-filled matches, defeating Endicott and Middlebury in double overtime with 1-0 and 2-1 wins, respectively. Williams was also handed a tough 2-1 defeat by Skidmore.

Facing Endicott last Sunday, the men dominated in every statistical category – 23 to six in shots, six to one in shots on goal and 11 to two in corner kicks – but neither team scored in regulation, and the game went to overtime

The afternoon was full of largely one-sided play, as the Ephs controlled the tempo for much of the contest while the Gulls looked to counter, which they did with modest success. Endicott came within inches of opening the scoring twice in the first half. Given a free kick from 30 yards out in the ninth minute, Shintaroh Itoh clanged a curling shot past Williams goalie Christian Alcorn ’17 and straight off the post and back into the box before finally being cleared away. Less than a quarter hour later, the Gulls’ opportunism nearly netted them a goal when Diego Slobotzky followed up on a through ball, pounced on a poor first touch from co-captain Luke Pierce ’15 and fired wide of Alcorn’s far post.

Head Coach Mike Russo shook up the starting lineup and deployed three different sets of attacking players for 15 minutes apiece in order to try and spark his sputtering offense. It was the last of these groups that nearly put the Ephs on the board in the first half, with JC Bahr-de Stefano ’17 at the center of the action. The sophomore midfielder ran onto a header from Tom Young ’18 and one-timed a ball across the face of goal. There, Malcolm Moutenot ’17 rammed a shot that Endicott’s Alex Jorge stopped but could not control. The Gull keeper could do nothing but watch as Bahr-de Stefano collected the rebound, but the shot rolled wide.

Russo’s mixing and matching paid dividends again in the second half. Brandon Dory ’17 looked comfortable holding up the ball at striker, while Malcolm Singleton ’18 provided an energizing injection of speed down the right wing time and again.

The corners, crosses and shots kept coming for the Ephs throughout the match, but nothing came to fruition. For 109 minutes, the Gulls withstood rush after rush while battling through their third overtime contest in less than a week. In the 110th, though, they were finally undone.

After a scoreless first overtime period, Zach Grady ’15 broke the ice and rewrote the story. Grady scored through a crowd of players in the box with less than 30 seconds left in double overtime to give the Ephs a hard-fought win over the Gulls. The goal was Grady’s seventh of the season; he now leads all NESCAC scorers in goals and total points with 14.

Co-captain Andrés Burbank-Crump ’15 had his initial cross into the box muffed by the Endicott keeper, but Michael Madding ’15 delivered a clean backheel to the feet of Grady, who poked his shot untouched through the crowd before sprinting to the stands to celebrate with the Williams faithful.

Against Skidmore last Saturday, an early goal from the Ephs did not faze the Thoroughbreds who recovered well to hit the Ephs back twice in the next half an hour, before ultimately going on to take the 2-1 decision.

The Ephs scored the opening goal in the third minute as Bahr-de Stefano pounced on a failed clearance by the Thoroughbred back line to rocket a shot from 30 yards out into an empty net.

The Thoroughbreds did not let the Ephs’ roaring start affect their game plan, as it took them just over 10 minutes to equalize. A Skidmore striker blasted a ball past Eph goalkeeper Bobby Schneiderman ’18 after controlling a cross beautifully off his chest.

The Thoroughbreds doubled their tally at the 26-minute mark to give them their lead that would hold up until the end of the game. This time, the goal came from a pass inside the box, and the Skidmore striker routinely dispatched the ball into the back of Schneiderman’s net from eight yards out. Noah Grumman ’16 rattled off a shot early in the second half, but the Skidmore keeper took care of it handily. The Thoroughbreds held on to defeat the Ephs 2-1.

On Oct. 1 against Middlebury, the men snapped a four-game winless streak as Grady scored another double-overtime game winner. The game began with the Ephs conceding a goal within the opening 15 minutes of the match. An awkward clearance attempt from Dory, playing on the back line instead of in his usual role as a striker, ricocheted off a Middlebury forward before bouncing off Dory’s elbow to give the Panthers a penalty. Schneiderman guessed right and dove to the correct side, but the spot kick was too powerful and flew straight past him to put Middlebury up 1-0.

After going down, the Ephs monopolized most of the half’s quality chances. In the 17th minute, Grady found Pierce with an arching free kick, only for Pierce to inadvertently play the ball with his hand to negate the scoring chance. Moments later, Bahr-de Stefano snuck behind the Panther back line to receive a second-chance cross from Burbank-Crump following one of the Ephs’ nine corners, but he could not fully corral the bounding ball before it went out for a goal kick.

In the 34th minute, the men found a breakthrough, as Geoff Danilack ’16 headed Grady’s back-post corner on goal and forced Middlebury keeper Greg Sydor to make a difficult save. As Sydor fell to the ground, Danilack punched the loose rebound home for the first goal of his Williams career. The score at halftime stood at 1-1.

Both the second half and the first overtime period saw back-and-forth play in which neither team took the lead. However, in the second overtime, with the game tied 1-1, Moutenot whipped a cross into the box that grazed a defender’s leg before Grady came around the back of Middlebury’s defense to meet the cross and power it past Sydor and give the Ephs a 2-1 double overtime win over the Panthers.

“I’m happy with the heart and determination we showed to come out on top in two double overtime games,” Pierce said. “Moving forward, it’s all about believing in ourselves and taking it a day at a time. Obviously we’ve faced some adversity thus far, but we need to recognize that we are still in a decent position and have a lot of season left ahead of us.”

The men return to conference play this weekend with home matches against Wesleyan on Saturday at noon and Bowdoin on Sunday at 1 p.m.