Ephs down two conference foes

Matt Murrales ’15 fired a shot for the Ephs against the Jumbos.
Matt Murrales ’15 fired a shot for the Ephs against the Jumbos.

Men’s soccer (7-5-1, 5-3 in the NESCAC) lost a critical conference match last Saturday, falling 1-0 to conference-leading Tufts. Williams also defeated conference foe Bowdoin  2-0 on Oct. 12 and knocked off Wesleyan with a 2-1 victory on Oct. 11.

The Ephs faced strong pressure in the opening minutes against the Jumbos last Saturday, as the Jumbo forwards launched the first four shots of the game. In one particularly dangerous moment, Eph goalie Christian Alcorn ’17 used his fingertips to make a diving save and keep the game scoreless.

In the 18th minute, Matt Muralles ’15 responded with a chance on goal, but the shot sailed over the net. Just five minutes later, the Jumbos gave the Ephs another scare with a header that just hit the crossbar and bounced away from the net. The half ended 0-0.

After being outshot nine to two in the first half, Williams picked up steam in the second half, as a shot by Zach Grady ’15 just two minutes into the half went just wide. The Jumbos capitalized first when the Ephs defense gave up a penalty just inside the box. Alcorn dove left to stop the penalty kick but guessed the wrong way as the ball sailed into the back of the net to put the Jumbos up 1-0.

Although the Ephs tried to rally, they didn’t get many chances on goal until the final few minutes. With six minutes left, Malcolm Moutenot ’17 launched a one-timer off a corner kick. The Jumbos blocked the ball, and co-captain Luke Pierce ’15 sent his follow-up shot high over the goal. Williams had one last chance a minute later, but both Grady and J.C. Bahr-de Stefano ’17 could not score an equalizer.

“While Tufts is a very strong team and honestly outplayed us, it is always difficult to lose a game on a penalty kick,” Pierce said.

On Oct. 12, Williams celebrated senior day with a starting lineup of all nine seniors against Bowdoin. The line held up well against the Polar Bears’ four corner kicks in the opening five minutes and three more in the following 10 minutes of play. Grady and Michael Madding ’15 each tried to get a header past the Bowdoin goalkeeper, but both times their attempts were thwarted.

In the 31st minute, Tom Young ’18 launched a low cross through the Polar Bears’ defense that deflected right towards Bahr-de Stefano, who took advantage with a skilled goal to give the Ephs a 1-0 lead.

The second half began with tremendous offensive pressure from the men, who launched several shots on goal that just would not go in. Bowdoin quickly regrouped, frequently threatening the Williams defense and keeping the ball away from trouble. In the 83rd minute, Chris Conder ’15 sent a cross to Bahr-de Stefano, but Bahr-de Stefano was taken down hard in the box. A penalty kick was called, and Grady nailed the penalty kick to seal the 2-0 win for the Ephs.

Williams fell behind early in its match on Oct. 11 against Wesleyan, when a long cross allowed Wesleyan to sneak past the Williams defensive line and score, putting the men down 1-0 just four minutes into the game. After the initial surge by Wesleyan, neither team produced many chances, as the midfield battled it out during the first half.

Williams turned on the pressure in the second half with a chance by Muralles in the 52nd minute that went wide. The ball stayed near the Cardinals’ goal, and two minutes later Conder slid Grady a low cross that Grady converted into a goal, one of Grady’s NESCAC-leading nine on the season.

Seven minutes later, Conder provided another assist, this time to Pierce, whose goal propelled the Ephs to a 2-1 lead. Williams was able to hold off a strong Wesleyan offense for the rest of the game, earning a hard-fought win.

“Last weekend was fantastic. Each game was a total team effort, and it was especially nice to take home a win for senior day,” Pierce said.

The Ephs closed their regular season at home with a 5-0 conference record, but they will need to win their last two games on the road to ensure a home NESCAC playoff match. Their next game is against Bates on Saturday at 2 p.m.

“Moving forward we have two big away matchups with Bates and Hamilton,” Pierce said. “They are both really important matches for our playoff situation and in gaining momentum so that we peak at the right time.”

The men are currently fourth in the NESCAC standings.