Dec. 5, 2008

Courtesy of Williams Athletics

GREENSBORO, NC -- The freight train that the Williams College women’s soccer team had resembled over the last four months finally hit the end of the line Friday night as the Ephs were defeated – for the first time in 2008 – by defending national champion Wheaton (Ill.) College, 3-1, at McPherson Stadium at Bryan Park in an NCAA Tournament national semifinal.

The loss came despite the Ephs outshooting the Thunder 21-13 in the game and 15-4 over the first 45 minutes. The few mistakes Williams made, Wheaton took advantage of and of the many chances the Ephs had, the Thunder dodged.

“Our goal was to be here tomorrow (for the national championship game),” Ephs head coach Michelyne Pinard said. “That’s not going to happen, but it’s not for a lack of trying, it’s not for a lack of opportunities, it just didn’t happen today.”

Williams finished its season 19-1-1. Wheaton (22-3-2) advances to play either Messiah or William Smith Saturday in the national championship game Saturday at 5 p.m.

“We have not faced a single squad this year better than Williams,” Wheaton coach Pete Felske said after the game. “And I would venture to say it wasn’t even close. We feel very fortunate to come away with a win.”

Williams had a goalden opportunity to take the lead in the game’s second minute, but Wheaton goalkeeper Ingrid Erickson made a phenomenal stop by diving outstretched to her right. The deflection momentarily bounced to Eph Jackie Russo, but Erickson quickly smothered any rebound attempt.

Taryn Lee, one of the nation’s top scorer, put her Wheaton team on top with 39:05 remaining in the first half after a misplay in the box allowed her to collect the ball at the top and fire home a shot into the left side.

So the Ephs were forced to play catch-up and they responded much like they have on more than one occasion this season. Over the final 33 minutes of the half, they created no less than eight very dangerous chances, but could not finish.

It even appeared Williams had tied the game with 18:23 to go when Sara Wild lofted a direct kick into the box. It was headed into the goal, but a foul was called on a Eph for a push they negated the score.

With 16 minutes left, Williams junior Sarah Walmsley fired a shot from the 18 that sailed over the cross bar. Just 42 seconds later, Annelise Snyder threaded a perfect pass to Brett Eisenhart that the first-year just re-directed wide. With 6:04 remaining, Snyder slid a pass to her left that found Walmsley, but the junior’s shot from 10 feet out was high.

The Ephs kept coming and with 40 seconds to go, Wild fired a shot along the ground that Erickson made another diving save. With 14 seconds left, Snyder appeared once again to knot the game with a shot into the bottom left corner of the goal, but a correct offsides call negated that tally.

“We outshot them by a lot, we just couldn’t finish today,” Eph first-year midfielder Nicole Stenquist said. “Their goalie made some nice saves at the end of the first half.”

The tempo of the game did not change in the first five minutes of the second half as both Stenquist and Wild had chances to tie the game at one. Wild’s shot six minutes in from 16 yards out on the right side of the box rocketed flush off the crossbar.

But the Thunder were patient, and their very quick and dangerous forwards were able to create some dangerous chances off quick counter attacks. With 37:04 left in the game, one of those attacks produced a shot that rebounded off several players in the box and found the foot of Kari Klynstra, who dribbled a shot toward the lower left corner of the goal. Williams keeper Lauren Sinnenberg made a valiant effort to swipe the ball away from the goal, but couldn’t quite recover in time and suddenly the Ephs trailed 2-0.

As expected though, the Ephs did not quit as they continued to dominate time of possession. With 30:42 remaining, it was Williams taking advantage of an opportunity when sophomore Tyler Rainer chipped a ball into the box. The ball bounced off Erickson to Williams senior sniper Gabby Woodson, who one-touched it to her right and fired a shot back across the box into the left side of the net.

Wheaton dug in their collective heels though by sticking four and some times five players back to clog up the Ephs passing lanes. After Woodson’s goal, the 34th and final of her illustrious Williams career, Williams came close to setting up some dangerous opportunities, but not like it had earlier in the game.

“I don’t think we had enough desperation in the box,” Woodson said. “I think we were trying too many small passes rather than taking some shots. They were very good 1 v. 1 in the box and clearing the ball.”

With 6:12 left, Wheaton’s Maria Della Torre extinguished much of the hope Williams had left, intercepting a pass near field and dribbling to the top of the box where she unleashed a perfect left-footed shot that just cleared the hand of a leaping Sinnenberg and just snuck in under the crossbar for a 3-1 lead.

The Ephs finished with that 21-13 shot advantage and also took four corner kicks to the Thunder’s three. Sinnenberg made two saves in the contest.

“I could not be prouder of this group of young women,” Pinard said. “The commitment they made to each other this year to achieve something bigger and forget individual goals, was inspiring.”

NOTES: There was a large parent contingent that formed a great fan base for the Ephs at the game, and a few local alums were also in attendance. Williams president Morty Scahpiro watched from the sidelines with athletic director Harry Sheehy and senior women's administrator Lisa Melendy, who was the head coach of the last Williams women's soccer team to make the final four in 1999. A huge crowd gathered in Paresky comprised of students, faculty and community residents to watch the Ephs battle wheaton as well.