No. 6 women’s soccer reaches NCAA Sweet 16

No. 6 women’s soccer (18–1–1, 8–1–1 in the NESCAC) defeated Lesley and Brandeis last weekend on Cole Field to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

In the first round, the women beat Lesley 2-0 on Saturday.

The women enjoyed long spells of possession in the first half on Saturday, but Lesley kept the home side off the scoreboard. Eph attackers found space with crisp one-two passing and deft dribbling, but Lynx defenders blocked several Eph crosses to prevent scoring opportunities.

Forward Sydney Jones ’21 had a chance for Williams near the end of the half. Jones beat her marker on a run into the box from the left wing, but her shot went wide of the far post.

The game was scoreless at halftime, though the Ephs recorded nine shots in the period. Donovan had three saves, while Eph goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill ’19 did not face a shot.

Williams forward Alison Lu ’20 started the scoring shortly after halftime. In the 47th minute, Lu won the ball deep in the Lesley penalty area. From the left side of the box, she dribbled in toward the goal and powered a shot inside the near post to put the Ephs up 1-0.

Natasha Albaneze ’18 scored the Ephs’ second goal in the 53rd minute. Tri-captain Evan Gancedo ’18 played the ball into the box for Lu, who found Natalie Turner-Wyatt ’19 in space on the left wing. Turner-Wyatt sent a low cross through the box, and Albaneze tapped it in at the back post.

Lesley had a chance in the 67th minute, when midfielder Karlie Rubin made a long run into Williams territory and won a corner kick. Following Rubin’s delivery from the set piece, McKenna Straube sent a shot wide.

The score remained 2-0 in the Ephs’ favor at the final whistle. Williams finished with a 15-2 edge in shots. Donovan totaled five saves in the contest.

Sydney Jones ’21 (left) scored twice on Sunday versus Brandeis. Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

Going forward, head coach Michelyne Pinard emphasized the team’s need to improve its pace of play.

“We just need to play more quickly,” she said. “The faster we play, the better we are. We need to play at that pace we played at in the second half for 90 minutes.”

On Sunday, the women topped Brandeis 3-0. The visitors began the second-round match with a prolonged spell of possession. In the ninth minute, the Judges saw the first scoring chance of the day. Forward Julia Matson rose to head a corner kick, but her shot went over the crossbar.

The Ephs got on the board in the 11th minute. On the right wing, Albaneze turned past her defender. Running toward the end line, she sent a soaring ball into the box. The ball sailed over the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Frankie Pinto and into the top-left corner of the net.

With the one-goal lead, the Ephs continued to attack. In the 19th minute, a long shot by Victoria Laino ’21 drew a save from Pinto. However, the ball bounced out to Georgia Lord ’21, who nearly put the rebound in.

The score remained 1-0 until halftime. The women had a 14-3 shot advantage in the period. Pinto made three saves for the Judges while Barnhill had one for the Ephs.

The home side doubled its lead in the 64th minute. Midfielder Aspen Pierson ’21 feinted a defender and took a shot from distance. Pinto made the save, but the rebound bounced loose inside the box. Jones raced in and knocked the ball into the net to make it 2-0 Ephs.

Brandeis began to get forward late in the second half. In the 79th minute, the Judges played a through ball for Willa Molho, but Eph tri-captain defender Danielle Sim ’18 intercepted the pass.

The visitors had their best chance of the game in the 88th minute. Forward Samantha Schwartz ran onto a ball past Williams’ back line and broke free into the box. She sent a shot toward the far post, but Barnhill got a hand on the ball.

The Ephs added a third goal in the final minute. From the edge of the box, Lord ripped a shot toward goal. Pinto reached the ball but could only tip it off the bar. The rebound caromed straight to Jones, who tapped it in for her second goal of the day.

After 90 minutes, the final score stood at 3-0 in Williams’ favor. The Ephs finished with a 29-5 edge in shots. Pinto totaled seven saves, and Barnhill made three stops.

After three straight games in which they were held scoreless in the first half, the Ephs scored just 10:58 into Sunday’s game.

“Any time we can start at a higher pace, we’re doing ourselves a favor,” Pinard said. “We want to get behind sooner.

“I was pleased with how we were moving off the ball and creating separation,” she said. “That allowed us to have a lot of opportunities through the middle third and to get in behind. I couldn’t be more pleased with our effort all around … against a good team.”

“I’m always so amazed to watch our team,” Sim said. “[The attackers] are all so creative. They have great touches and great vision – they find passes that I didn’t even know were available.”

The women host Cal-Lutheran on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Round of 16.