Women’s soccer continues undefeated season

Olivia Barnhill ’19 recorded her 10th shutout of the year on Sunday as the Ephs won their sixth straight game. Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

No. 4 women’s soccer (12–0–1, 7–0–1 in the NESCAC) edged Springfield and Wesleyan, both by 1-0 scorelines, last weekend. Having defeated Amherst 3-2 on Sept. 23, the women notched the Little Three title.

On Sunday, Williams beat Springfield with a 71st-minute goal by forward Syd Jones ’21. Springfield controlled the pace of play in the first half. The Pride forced an early save from Eph goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill ’19, when forward Mikaela Coady put a shot on net.

Williams had an opportunity to take the lead in the 19th minute, when a Springfield foul led to a penalty kick. Pride goalie Ciara Boucher, however, made a stop on tri-captain Evan Gancedo ’18.

The pace slowed in the latter part of the half, and neither team recorded a shot in the final 26:30. At the break, the game was still scoreless.

The Ephs threatened again in the 51st minute, when forward Sarah Scire ’20 got behind the Pride defenders, but Boucher made another crucial save.

Jones provided the breakthrough for Williams in the 71st minute. Center back Liz Webber ’20 sent a long ball forward, and Jones knocked it on to get past the back line. She beat Boucher to net her second goal of the season, putting the Ephs up 1-0.

Springfield had its best chance of the game with 5:57 left. A shot by midfielder Gabrielle Fernandes was headed for goal, but Barnhill tipped the ball over the crossbar.

Despite a late attacking surge from the Pride, the Ephs held on for a 1-0 win. Springfield finished the game with a 7-5 advantage in shots, but Barnhill made three saves to keep the home side off the scoreboard. Boucher had two critical saves for the Pride.

Sunday’s win was the third straight game in which Williams prevailed by a 1-0 scoreline. Head coach Michelyne Pinard acknowledged that the Ephs have seen fewer scoring opportunities as opposing defenses have improved late in the season.

“As you go from September to October, teams get more organized defensively,” she said. “At the moment, we’re having to finish on fewer chances. It makes sense that we’re not able to get behind teams as much as we did earlier in the season, but we’re continuing to evolve offensively.”

Moving forward, Pinard has identified two objectives that will allow the team to create more chances early in games.

“What we need to do is solve the space earlier in the game,” she said. “[Every team] gives us something, and we need to figure out what that is early on. The other [point] is that we need to take care of our passes more. If we can solve those two things, we can be more dangerous.”

On Saturday, the women beat Wesleyan 1-0 to earn the Little Three title. Tri-captain Jacqueline Simeone ’18 scored the game-winner in the 46th minute.

The Cardinals kept possession at the start of the game and began to get forward midway through the half. In the 28th minute, Kayla O’Brien was fouled by Sarah Kelly ’20 in the box, and the referee signaled for a Wesleyan penalty kick. Defender Kinsey Yost took the spot kick, but Barnhill guessed correctly and dove to make a spectacular save. She smothered the rebound, and the game remained scoreless until halftime.

Williams, however, found a breakthrough less than a minute after restart. Natasha Albaneze ’18 played a corner kick to Simeone, who hit the ball first-time. Simeone’s shot sailed over the head of the goalkeeper and into the net.

The goal shifted the momentum of the game, and the Ephs found themselves with a 1-0 lead despite the Cardinals’ strong first half. The Ephs started to take control of the possession battle and saw chances to extend the lead while keeping the Cardinals off the ball.

Wesleyan did not record its first shot of the second half until the 80th minute, when Lauren Goetzman and Emily Ribatt each had their shots blocked by Williams defenders.

Jones provided Williams with a chance at an insurance goal in the 86th minute. She made a deceptive move on the right wing and sent a cross in, but Cassels-Brown made a save.

The Ephs held their 1-0 advantage until the final whistle. Williams had a 9-2 second-half lead in shots and a 12-9 edge for the full 90 minutes. Barnhill finished with three saves while Cassels-Brown totaled seven.

Pinard said after the game that Barnhill’s penalty kick save was a turning point.

“Liv is incredible, and that save was huge,” she said. “We would’ve had a long day if that had gone in. It was a turning point for us and started to lift us to play more urgently.”

Pinard stressed the importance of winning the Little Three title.

“Any sort of championship matters to us,” she said. “Winning the Little Three was one of our goals, and it feels good to have accomplished it. Wesleyan is a good team and really tough at home, so I’m thrilled with the result.”

The women return to Cole Field on Saturday to host Tufts at 12:30 p.m.