Ephs top Panthers and Jumbos, extend win streak

Last Sunday, women’s soccer (12-1, 7-1 in the NESCAC) topped Middlebury for the first time since 2010 in a tough, physical battle, after defeating Tufts last Saturday 1-0.They also beat Bowdoin 2-1 on Oct. 12 in double OT and dismantled Little Three rival Wesleyan 4-0 on Oct. 10.

Against Middlebury, Kristi Kirshe ’17 notched another game-winning goal, allowing the team to stay tied with archrival Amherst atop of the NESCAC leaderboard, headed into the final week of the regular season.

The battle started from the opening whistle, as Audrey Thomas ’17 won a free kick about 30 yards out on the right side of the Panther goal in the second minute, allowing for Mai Mitsuyama ’16 to send the ball to the back post, evading multiple Ephs and Panthers until a Panther defender sent it rocketing out of danger. The women came close to opening the scoring again in the 19th minute, as Thomas showed off her pace and skill on the ball, weaving through several Middlebury defenders before sliding a through ball toward Crystal Lewin ’16 on the right side of the Panther penalty area. Lewin took a touch, but the tight angle and recovering defenders forced her into taking a shot that went well over the crossbar.

Early in the second half, Kirshe notched her NESCAC-leading seventh conference goal of the season. After a series of corner kicks on the left side, the Ephs won a throw-in deep down the left wing. Mitsuyama quickly threw to Alison Magruder ’15, who sent a beautiful cross into the center of the box. The ball sailed right onto the leaping head of Kirshe, whose perfect, looping header rose over the outstretched arms of Panther goalkeeper Emily Eslinger, before dipping back under the crossbar and into the back of the Panthers’ net.

The Panthers had a chance to equalize 14 minutes later, when they won another free kick in a dangerous area, just to the right of Eph keeper and tri-captain Hannah Van Wetter ’15. The ball was sent into the box by senior Sophia Kligler, but the Ephs managed to clear and initiate a counter of their own that saw Hanna Kaeser ’18 win a corner for the Ephs on the right side.

In the 80th minute, Mitsuyama sent another one of her textbook crosses into the center of the Panther box, which Maddie Swarr ’17 managed to chest toward goal, but a two-goal Eph lead was denied only by the crossbar, as it sent the ball back into the penalty area for a Panther to clear out of danger.

The Ephs secured their 1-0 margin of victory and ninth clean sheet of the season by burning valuable seconds off the clock through the experienced leadership of Magruder, wisely taking the ball to the Panthers’ defensive corner flags, leaving the Panthers with not much to do except watch the seconds trickle down to zero.

Last Saturday, an early tally from Kirshe and some stout defensive play in the second half lifted the women over Tufts.

Kirshe scored just four minutes into the match, powering home a cross from Mitsuyama and punctuating an early offensive flurry for the Ephs, who carried play throughout the first half.

The second half was a different story as the Jumbos amassed seven corners and consistently looked dangerous at the edge of the box. They nearly broke through off one of those corners in the 58th minute, when Catherine Greer managed to steer a header on net, only to see it turned aside by Van Wetter, who then managed to smother the follow-up shot as well. That was the closest Tufts came to scoring, as the Ephs were content to wind the clock down in the game’s closing moments.

On Oct. 12, the Ephs bested the Polar Bears in dramatic fashion as Kirshe scored a goal in double-overtime to send the Ephs to victory.

After a relatively tame start to play, the late drama was only just getting started in the 82nd minute, when Swarr bagged her second goal of the season. Mitsuyama took a corner on the left side, tapping it short to Magruder, who hit an in-swinging cross toward the near post, where it eventually fell to the feet of tri-captain Lily Wellenbach ’15 who deftly tapped it to Swarr in the center to blast home a rocket into the left corner of the goal from point-blank range.

Swarr and the Ephs surely thought they had clinched the win in regular time, but the Polar Bears had something else in mind. Bowdoin won a corner of their own on the left side five minutes later, which senior Abby Einwag sent into the center of the box. It flicked around before it was nodded over the raised arms of Van Wetter and into the back of the net, making the score 1-1 and sending the game into overtime.

The first good chance in extra time came in the 94th minute, off a free kick in the midfield after a handball. Mitsuyama lofted a ball into the box that eventually rattled out to Louisa Costa ’15 who struck a shot toward the right corner of the goal, but it drifted just over the bar and out of danger.

In the second overtime, Kirshe sealed the deal. Lewin initiated the move, driving through the midfield to send a ball to Kirshe in the center, who one-touch lifted the ball over the Polar Bear back line, where Thomas met her pass. But the ball still wouldn’t go in for the Ephs, as the keeper made herself big enough to body-block the ball away from the back of the net. Kirshe, however, was there and a volley with her shin sent the ball dribbling across the line to send the Ephs into delirium over their second double-overtime win of the season.

On Oct. 10 against Wesleyan, Thomas led the team as she grabbed her ninth and 10th goals of the season to send the women on their way to a comfortable 4-0 win on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Cole Field.

Thomas opened up the scoring for the Ephs in the sixth minute, after Costa jetted down the right flank, showing her deft skill with the ball to beat her defender and get to the touchline to send a low, rolling pass to Thomas in the center of the box, who buried a right-footed effort into the left panel of the goal.

Eight minutes later, Thomas doubled the Ephs’ lead, following a lovely ball over the top from Kirshe that allowed her to show off her lightning-quick pace to beat both Cardinal center backs and the keeper to the ball, before dispatching it into an empty net.

In the second half, Lindsey Vandergrift ’16 all but wrapped up the game for the Ephs in the 76th minute as she lifted the ball over the Cardinal keeper’s flailing right arm to bag her first goal of the season and give the Ephs a three-goal cushion.

Alex McInturf ’15 added a fourth to the scoreboard and a third to her tally this season in the dying moments as she blasted a rocket with the outside of her right foot from 30 feet out that dipped just under the crossbar and into the right corner of the goal.

The Ephs have a pair of games left to play in the regular season, travelling to Bates on Saturday at 11 a.m. before moving on to Hamilton next Wednesday at 3:30 p..m.