Women’s soccer named National Champs

Head Coach Michelyne Pinard celebrates with her team after women’s earned its first Div. III National Championship title. Photo Courtesy of Kris DuFour and Hans Kaeser
Head Coach Michelyne Pinard celebrates with her team after women’s earned its first Div. III National Championship title. Photo Courtesy of Kris DuFour and Hans Kaeser

On Saturday afternoon in Kansas City, Mo., women’s soccer (21-1-2, 9-1 in the NESCAC) made history. The women defeated Washington University in St. Louis 1-0 to take the NCAA Div. III National Championship, the first time for Williams and also the first time a women’s NESCAC team has claimed the title.

The opening proceedings did not, however, leave the Ephs with the impression that they were going to keep a clean sheet, as Tressa Palcheck ’17 saw her crossbar rattled twice in the opening five minutes.

First, Hannah Rosenberg sent an early second-minute corner to the near post, right onto the head of the Bears’ leading scorer, Olivia Lillegraven. Lillegraven then out-jumped her defender to flick a header toward the back post, where Katie Chandler was on hand to head it toward goal. Palcheck had little chance to deny Chandler her goal, but Hanna Kaeser ’18 was on hand to wildly kick it off the line, launching it straight up and onto the crossbar. Chandler then rocked the Ephs’ woodwork again, as she was given space to blister a shot that dipped right onto Palcheck’s crossbar.

Possibly the best chance for the Bears to open the scoring in the first half came in the seventh minute, as Rachel Mickelson caught Gabz Amos-Grosser ’17 recovering after a foray forward to jet through the Eph backline and go clean through on goal with Palcheck. Palcheck, luckily, saved the shot from finding the back of the net.

After the opening minutes, the Ephs finally settled into the game, as Natalie Turner-Wyatt ’19 played a weighted pass over the top of the Bear backline just before the ten-minute mark, searching for Kirshe, who couldn’t quite steer her ensuing shot away from the chest of Lizzy Crist in goal. Kristina Alvarado ’19 then scored her fateful goal with just three minutes remaining in the half to put the Ephs up 1-0.

The second half saw no new scores and, with only 15 minutes to play, the Ephs expertly controlled possession and left the Bears nearly helpless to find a lifeline and send the game to extra time. The Bears, however, engineered one final chance with just over a minute remaining. Ultimately, the women held on to win the National crown 1-0. Alvarado was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the Tournament and also earned a spot on the All-Tournament team along with Mitsuyama, Kirshe and Natasha Albaneze ’18.

Winning the 2015 NCAA Div. III women’s soccer title gives Williams 34 overall NCAA Div. III titles in 11 different sports. In the 2015 calendar year, Williams women have won the NCAA Div. III title in golf, tennis, cross country and soccer. Williams finished its season 21-1-2, its second straight 20-win season and only the second in program history.

The women got to the final through a 2-1 victory against Centre in the Final Four, a win in penalty kicks against William Smith in the Elite Eight and a 2-1 victory over Stevens in the Sweet 16.

The Ephs could not be more thrilled with their victory. “What this team created this season is beyond words,” Head Coach Michelyne Pinard said. “It would have been easy to crumble under the pressure of those moments, but the calm, cool confidence combined with the toughness and resilience was simply spectacular to watch.  I’m so proud of them.”

The team says goodbye to Mitsuyama, Lewin, Abby Morss ’16, Lindsey Vandergrift ’16 and co-captain Zoe Trutner ’16, who all graduate this spring.

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