Ephs down Jumbos in penultimate game

Going into the final two-game stretch of the regular season, women’s soccer (13–0–1, 8–0–1 in the NESCAC) made the trip to Tufts amd won 2–1.

Heading into Saturday’s game, both teams had already solidified places in the post-season NESCAC Tournament. The Jumbos looked to build confidence after a very up-and-down season against conference opponents, while the Ephs looked to move one step closer to locking down home-field advantage for all stages of the NESCAC Tournament.

The Jumbos entered the game having given up seven goals in the last three games, while the Ephs entered Saturday having tallied 25 goals in their last five outings. Just 32 seconds into the game, however, the Jumbos’ Sarah Pykkonen opened the scoring with a goal straight into the net.

A Jumbos player took the ball from Kristi Kirshe ’17 at the start and immediately pushed forward down Tufts’ right wing. The Jumbos raced to the end line and whipped in a cross that Eph goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill ’19 could not catch, leaving the goal gaping for Pykkonen to smash the ball into the roof of the net.

Just three minutes later, however, Kirshe captured the ball near the sideline in a move between her and Kristina Alvarado ’19. When Alvarado got the ball and sprinted past the Jumbo defense into the box, she passed back to Kirshe, who finished the play in the net.

In the second half, Kirshe and Alavardo worked together again to set up Sarah Sciré ’20 near the post in the 58th minute.

Kirshe challenged a Jumbo defender for the ball about 25 yards from goal, winning it and sending it forward to Alvarado inside the penalty area. Alvarado slid a pass across the face of goal for her teammate, finding Sciré’s feet for her to fire a shot into the net’s top corner, marking the end of the scoring for the afternoon.

“The weather and field were factors and I was very proud of how tough we were,” Head Coach Michelyne Pinard said. “It isn’t a secret, we would prefer to play on a surface that allows us to possess cleanly. That surface, wind and rain weren’t conducive to that and we could have broken down as a result. However, the team realized we needed to play more direct style that we prefer not to play and were resilient in doing so, especially going down so early.”

Co-captain Audrey Thomas ’17 also commented on the tough conditions.

“The conditions were obviously not ideal but both teams had to deal with the rain, wind, and mud equally,” Thomas said. “Ultimately, we are thankful we came away with the win.”

With the win, the women extend their win streak to eight games and preserve their undefeated season. With one game left in the regular season, they hold the top spot in the NESCAC, three points ahead of Amherst. They needed only a draw in their final regular-season game against Middlebury to guarantee home-field advantage for all games in the NESCAC Tournament. The Ephs hosted Middlebury yesterday afternoon, hoping to prevent a repeat of last season’s defeat in the final regular-season game at the hands of the Panthers. Results came in too late to report.

“We are excited to get back on Cole and will do everything in our power to make sure we’re on Cole the rest of the way,” Coach Pinard said. “We can play anywhere, but we always prefer Cole and we want our seniors to play there and have as many games there as possible in November.”

Thomas highlighted the importance of beating Middlebury to secure home-field advantage.

“We love to play at home on Cole Field,” Thomas said. “Post-season is always a new mentality and everything gets more intense and focused. We are all treating Middlebury like a post-season game because it has influence over the post-season, but ultimately we play each game at a time at this point in the year. We frame it as earning the next game and that requires total focus on the game at hand.”