WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – Emily Whicker scored off a pass from Lilly Wellenbach 44 seconds into third overtime to give Williams a 15-14 victory against No. 7 Middlebury on Wednesday night.
Emily Jablonski had three goals and five assists to lead the Ephs’ offense, and Ali Piltch finished the game with 15 saves to help the Ephs finish the season a high note. Williams finished the season 6-9 overall and 2-8 in the NESCAC. Middlebury fell to 10-3 on the year and 7-3 in the conference.
Margaret Souther led the way for the Panthers with five goals and two assists, and Alyssa Palomba, filling in for All-American Lily Nguyen in the net, stopped six shots.
“It was a great way for us to end the season with a hard-fought battle against Middlebury, another strong team in the conference,” Williams head coach Chris Mason said. “We battled with every team in the conference this season and finally pulled out one of the wins that came down to the wire. For the team to stay tough and strong all the way through three overtime periods was impressive. They just never gave up … There was just a determination there, like we were just not losing this one, we are pulling this one out.”
“Middlebury really did a good job forcing a lot of things, and we did a good job forcing them to make some turnovers too,” Mason said. “We played great defensively, we had an absolutely fantastic game from Ali again, and from the defense, and we had some beautiful plays and better ball movement.”
“It’s fun for team to have an uplifiting moment at the end of the season,” she added. “The season might have been disappointing in wins and losses, but it was never disappointing as far as hard work, team work, camaraderie of the players, and the spirit that they play with. The spirit they exhibit every day at practice was a tribute to the seniors who led the team, and who we will miss terribly next year.”
The Ephs graduate tri-captains Margie Fulton, Meera Sivalingam, and Tyler Chapman, as well as Taylor Fleishhacker and Kaitlin Ellis, who missed the game due to an injury.
The game proved to be a battle throughout. Middlebury jumped on the Ephs early, forcing a save from Piltch only 15 seconds in and scoring after only 46 seconds when Souther beat Piltch bottom left on a solo foray to the net. However, Williams pulled even soon thereafter: Rebecca McGovern, cutting through the center of the Middlebury defense, had her stick checked as she shot, and the ball snuck by Palomba 4:30 into the game to make the score 1-1.
At that point, the Panthers jumped on Williams, going on a three goal run sparked by another solo effort from Souther with 22:03 to play in the half. Hannah Deoul and Liz Herzog followed up with goals with 19:46 and 17:53 remaining. The Ephs were then able to stop the Panther attack, as Emily Whicker scored on a free position shot with 12:03 to play to end the Middlebury run and make the score 4-2. However, Middlebury went back up three when Katie Ritter cut through the middle, received a pass from Michaela Colbert from behind the net, and scored with 11:06 to play.
The Ephs were able to pull back within one with two goals in the following five minutes. The first came after Fulton received pass from Jablonski cutting left to right and beat Palomba with 9:18 to play, and the second came when McGovern scored her second of the day after receiving a pass from Fleishhacker at the top of the crease, beating Palomba low to make the score 5-4 and force a Middlebury timeout.
Deoul was able to extended Middlebury’s lead back to two with 3:03 to play after receiving pass at top of crease from Souther and beating Piltch to make the score 6-4. Middlebury possessed for much of the remaining time, but Piltch stopped a free position shot with 25 seconds remaining and the Ephs closed out the half down two.
The opening of the second half saw the Ephs and Panthers trade goals, with Fulton scoring for Williams on an assist from Whicker 1:42 into the half and Herzog scoring an unassisted goal 3:51 in.
Following Herzog’s goal, Williams’ offense had one of its best stretches of the season, ripping off a run of six consecutive goals to take an 11-7 lead. Jablonski was the key to the run: She found Fulton at the top of the crease for each of the first two goals and scored three goals of her own. The highlight of the run came in the 10th minute of the half. Piltch stopped a free position shot with 20:40 to play and cleared the ball to Sam Weinstein, who sprinted up the field and found Jablonski alone on the top of the crease; Jablonski then beat Palomba with 20:27 to play after faking high, putting the Ephs up 10-7. Jablonski’s next goal, on a man-up opportunity with 16:42 remaining, capped the run and made the score 11-7.
Middlebury soon responded to the Ephs. The Panthers ripped off a run of four consecutive goals in the following six minutes to retie the game, scoring on a free position shot from Souther, a one-on-one opportunity for Catherine Fowler, a goal from Colbert, and a shot from Elizaebth Garry off an assist from Ritter with 11:20 to play. Wellenbach was able to put a stop to the Panthers’ run with 10:32 to play off an assist from Jablonski, but Souther reties game 20 seconds later, firing a left-handed shot to beat Piltch and make score 12-12.
The teams traded possession for several minutes following Souther’s goal before Middlebury retook the lead after Ritter scored on an assist from Souther with 6:59 to play in the half. However, Williams did not let Ritter’s goal go unanswered long, as Weinstein was able to score off another assist from Jablonski only 25 seconds later to tie the game at 13. The teams were unable to muster any shots on goal in the final minutes, sending them to overtime.
Weinstein was again on her game for the Ephs in the first extra period, scoring only 1:13 in to give Williams the lead. Palomba had come out of the net to pick up a ground ball off a blocked shot, but Weinstein forced a turnover and earned a free position shot with Palomba still outside the crease; Weinstein was able to fire following the restart of the game to give Williams the 14-13 lead. Hoewever, the Panthers yet again came back, when Souther retied the game with an unassisted effort after weaving the Eph defense with 2:34 into the OT, and the teams soon went into a second overtime tied at 14.
The goalies came up big in the second OT, as Piltch made a save one-on-one with Colbert 45 seconds in second overtime, and Palomba made a save with 30 seconds to play in the period to send the game to a third extra period.
The game did not last much longer. Although Middlebury won the draw, McGovern quickly forced a turnover, and the Ephs took possession in their offensive zone. Soon thereafter, Wellenbach had the ball behind the goal, and found Whicker diving to the net; Whicker fired the ball past Palomba and into the back of the net, giving Williams a victory to end its season.