Well Eph You, Then! : Women’s Soccer Semifinals Preview

Last weekend’s quarterfinal matchups produced some shockers. High seeded teams such as Conn College and Middlebury fell. Amherst and Hamilton shocked the NESCAC world by coming into the playoffs as low seeds, and pulling off those upsets. And in less shocking news, Tufts and Williams continued their dominance. All but one game had a 1-0 score. This semifinal weekend will be just as exciting as the quarter final weekend with dominant teams playing the underdogs. As we saw last weekend, never count any team out. Here is a preview of the semifinal matchups:

#7 Amherst vs #1 Williams (Williamstown, MA, 11:00 AM)

As fate would have it, Amherst and Williams will meet in the playoffs. Similar to Yankees/Red Sox, Lakers/Celtics, Alabama/Auburn rivalries, the Amherst and Williams rivalry is one of the most storied rivalries not only in college sports, but in sports altogether. In a late September game, Williams narrowly defeated Amherst by a 3-2 margin. November soccer, however, is a lot different than September soccer. These are two different teams from the ones that met in September.

Aspen Pierson ’21 will be the key to Williams’ continued dominance.

Williams kept rolling with an almost perfect record–albeit with a loss to Middlebury. One major boost for Williams is Aspen Pierson ‘21. Pierson is coming off offseason hip surgery that has limited her playing time. She made her Eph debut in an October game against Wesleyan, and has steadily been logging increasing minutes. She’s a dynamic playmaker with great field vision. Her anticipation and soccer IQ only adds to Williams’ already potent arsenal.

Amherst also is a much improved team since that September game. I’ll admit, I wrote them off in the mid season power rankings because of their lack of defensive discipline even though they compiled impressive offensive statistics. It looks like the team has completely righted that ship. Amherst knocked off the second seeded Conn College Camels in a cinderella 1-0 win. I don’t think Amherst had the discipline earlier in the year to win a 1-0 game against a very strong team like the Camels. This win, nevertheless, shows the improvement Amherst has made. Rubii Tamen ‘19 scored the lone Amherst goal. Tamen has been one of the best offensive players for Amherst, and will be looked upon if the team wants to pull off the upset. There’s no doubt Williams is the more talented team. Williams and Amherst matchups, however, are almost always a coin flip. However, I believe that it is Williams’ year:

Prediction: Williams 2-1

#6 Hamilton vs #4 Tufts (Williamstown, MA, 1:30 PM)

The Hamilton Continentals’ road to the finals has not been easy. First, they had to defeat a team [Middlebury] that accomplished something no other team in the country could do: beat Williams. Middlebury’s loss to Hamilton was truly a shocker. Emily Dumont ‘18 stood on her head in net all day–making a few desperation saves to keep Hamilton in the game. Maddie Dale ‘20 scored her first goal of the season at the most opportune time. Once Hamilton got the lead, the Continentals never looked back. I would say that everything had to go the way it did for Hamilton to secure the win. Dumont had to not let anything past her, and someone had to step up for the Continentals. Similar to Amherst, the Continentals are steamrolling into this semifinal matchup.

Maddie Dale ’20 scored the clutch game winner against Middlebury.

If I were Tufts, I wouldn’t want to play a hot team. In the NESCAC, however, there are no easy matchups–especially during the playoffs. Tufts’ road to the semifinals had to go through Trinity; the Bantams put up a real fight, but Tufts’ composure that they’ve showed all season carried them to a win. After that embarrassing loss to Williams in October, it seems like Tufts has turned the page, and gone back to what they do best: defense and Sophie Lloyd ’21. Lloyd has carried the Jumbos all season. Her lone goal was the difference maker in the game against Trinity. The freshman sensation’s sixteen points on the season is one of the major reasons of the team’s success. This game will be played after the Amherst/Williams game, so both teams will know which team they could possibly face in the finals. Like in all sports, Hamilton and Tufts need to remember to take one game at a time, and not worry about Williams/Amherst. I’m going to go with the upset here:

Prediction: Hamilton 1-0 OT

Jumbos and Ephs: Women’s Soccer Game of the Week

Tufts (7-3-3, 5-1-2) @ Williams (12-0-1, 7-0-1), Williamstown, MA, 8/21, 12:30 PM

With Connecticut College not playing a league game last weekend, Tufts’ 3-0 trouncing of Bates propelled the Jumbos into second place in the conference. Williams, unsurprisingly, remained unbeaten as a result of a 1-0 win against Wesleyan. The last weekend in regular season play is a decisiveness one. A win can give a team all the confidence and momentum in the world. A loss, however, may lead to unwanted questions going into the most crucial time of year. This weekend’s Tufts vs. Williams game will give everyone a taste of what is to come in the next few weeks.

Liz Reed ’21 scored a pair of goals against Bates.

Going into last weekend, the Tufts Jumbos felt confident about themselves; they were playing a faltering Bates team, and was ranked third in the conference. The Jumbos didn’t just beat Bates: they destroyed them. The scoring party began with Liz Reed ‘21, who notched two goals. Sophie Lloyd ‘21 complemented Reed’s goal with another one. This freshmen one-two punch has accumulated twelve goals this season. We’ve seen all year underclassmen making impacts on the offensive end of the pitch. This ‘Bos combo is no different. Reed and Lloyd account for two-thirds of all the Jumbos’ goals this year. The ‘Bos have all the momentum in the world with a young, potent offense and Emily Bowers’ ‘19 continued dominance in net. Bowers has consistently posted statistics in the top five of the league week in and week out.

Liz Webber
Liz Webber ’18 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Williams, in contrast, almost had a scare last Saturday in Middletown, CT, against the one win Wesleyan Cardinals. A foul in the box almost led to a Kinsey Yost goal, but GK Olivia Barnhill ‘19 bailed the Ephs out. A shaky first half definitely frightened the Ephs players and coaching staff because they came out as a different team in the second. A Jacqueline Simeone ‘18 goal only a few minutes into the second was the difference maker for the Ephs. The rest of the game, they played tight defense and reduced the mental mistakes, dominated time of possession, and kept Wesleyan on their heels; they looked like the Ephs we are accustomed to see. One player that stood out to me was Liz Webber ‘20. Her defensive play was incredible; she seemed to step at all the right times, while not letting any Wesleyan player beat her up the field.

This game will be a tightly contested battle. I suspect that it’ll be a defensive game in the first half. Both teams will try to feel out what the other is trying to do early on. In the second half, however, I think one team will break the game open. Scoring will be at a premium in this game, so expect a lucky bounce on a corner or positioning to be the sole difference maker. It’s a long drive from Medford to Williamstown. Williams will forever have a bullseye on its back as a result of being undefeated, and so far, they’ve proved why they’re the best team in the conference. It’ll be a playoff atmosphere on Saturday, and a game the Jumbos have waiting for for quite some time.

In any sport, I love picking the underdog. However, I believe the smart choice is picking the team with momentum because each player believes that they can win.

My prediction: Tufts 2-1 OT

The Play(off)’s the Thing: Women’s Soccer Power Rankings 10/11

As we trudge through midterms and think about the glorious prospects of Fall break, NESCAC Women’s Soccer nears the end of its regular season with only two weekends left of conference play. Williams and Connecticut College sit atop the division, while Wesleyan and Colby round out the bottom. Tufts and Middlebury look to finish the regular season strong, and build momentum going into the playoff season.

Here are my mid-season power rankings:

1). Williams College Ephs

It’s hard to argue that any other team is more deserving of the number one spot in the power rankings. The Ephs have yet to lose a game all year, including conference and nonconference play. The Ephs are like the Patriots. When New England trailed Atlanta by twenty-five points, Falcons WR Taylor Gabriel told an arrogant Mohamed Sanu, “But they have Tom Brady, though” when Sanu stated the Patriots couldn’t come back. Two weeks ago, the Ephs edged the flaming hot Camels to break their hopes of an undefeated season on a seemingly harmless corner kick in OT. No matter how many goals the Ephs are down by, they are that team that always finds a way to come back. The most staggering statistic to point to the Ephs’ success is their goals against, which is a mere four goals (the next best GA team is Conn with six). Liz Webber ‘20 has come back this season from an injury that kept her out the entire 2016 campaign, and has been an integral part of the Ephs’ offensive and defensive prowess. The rest of the regular season schedule isn’t too challenging for the Ephs, but in all likelihood, they will have to beat the Camels if they want to fulfill their quest for a national championship.

It’s been nothing but smiles for Williams so far this season.

2). Connecticut College Camels

The Camels didn’t disappoint the alumni at homecoming last weekend. They trounced the Bates Bobcats 3-0. I predicted the game would’ve been a tighter one; nevertheless, the Camels showed to the rest of the conference that they’re a special team. Before the season, many people believed that the conference hierarchy was the Ephs at the top, a fifty-foot drop, and then the next team, which wasn’t even comparable to the Ephs. The Camels replied to this statement, “No, not this year. There’s a new sheriff in town.” That sheriff is none other than Kat Norton ‘21. The freshman sensation is second in the conference in goals—notching two in the decisive win over Bates. Most teams rely on veteran players being the difference makers in conference games, so the unrelenting production from Norton has propelled Conn to one of the best teams in the conference. GK Bryanna Montalvo ‘18 has been one of the best in the NESCAC all year—giving her team a chance in tightly competitive games. A NESCAC championship between Conn and Williams would be a thriller, and the victor has a great shot at securing a national championship.

3). Middlebury College Panthers

The Panthers currently rank fourth in the NESCAC. They’re a very good team that excels on both sides of the field. A late goal in a 2-1 OT win over Wesleyan on Sunday showed the team’s tenacity. The conditions were brutal with a humid rain. With ten seconds left in the first overtime period, Eliza Van Voorhis ‘21 scored on a beautiful cross just outside the box from one of her Panther teammates. Wesleyan was just coming off a big win against Colby, and looked like they possessed all the momentum in the world. However, the persistence Middlebury showed by not giving up with only ten seconds to play in the overtime period illustrates that they’re going to be a good team down the stretch. If I were Conn or Williams, I would be worried in a 0-0 playoff game in the second-half against Midd.

Caitlin Magruder ’20 scored her first goal of the season, and Middlebury persevered in OT against Wesleyan.

4). Tufts University Jumbos

The Jumbos must be feeling left out. With all the noise Conn has made, Tufts hasn’t been giving the spotlight they deserve. They’ve put together a very good season thus far, ranking third in the NESCAC. GK Emily Bowers ‘19 has played quite impressively all season with her name in the top five of saves and save percentage. Sophie Lloyd ‘21 leads the team with an impressive five goals. The ‘Bos only have Bates and Bowdoin left on their schedule, which are winnable games. If they can do that, the ‘Bos will enough momentum to possibly knock off the league’s top dogs come playoff time.

5). Trinity College Bantams

After a mediocre start to the season, the Bantams are 2-0 in their past two conference games. Albeit the wins are against Wesleyan and Bowdoin, wins are wins no matter who they come against. The Bantams should be feeling good about themselves after those two conference wins. I predict, however, that those smiles will go away after they travel to both Middlebury and Connecticut College for their next two conference games. Rhone O’Hara ‘20 leads her team in points, and has been a force on defense throughout the year. Right now, the Bantams sit in the middle of the pack in the standings, but look for a fall after a ominous weekend.

6). Hamilton College Continentals

At this point in the season, the Continentals are trying to win out to avoid playing Williams or Conn in the first round. Therefore, these next two games are critical for them. This last weekend didn’t treat Hamilton too well with a loss against the Jumbos and a tie against Amherst. A win in both games would’ve propelled Hamilton up into the upper-tier of the standings. Now, they don’t carry much momentum from earlier in the season anymore. GK Emily Dumont ‘18 has been a stud in net, however. She has won the Continentals some games that could’ve gone either way. The goal scoring went dry last weekend, and that must change if Hamilton wants to have a deep playoff run.

7). Wesleyan University Cardinals

I avoid as much bias as I can in my writing, so choosing the one win Cardinals as the seventh team in my power rankings may be a shocker to some. Look, the Cardinals had some really tough breaks on Sunday. After a decisive win against Colby on Saturday, the team almost beat Middlebury on Sunday. One of the team’s best players, Liz Young ‘19, went down with an injury during the game. Another Cardinal injury only plagued them more. Even though the Cardinals haven’t looked great all year, Emily Ribatt ‘21 and Carly Bechtloff ‘21 have been key freshman contributors. Bechtloff’s hustle and keeping a play alive in the corner led to a nifty Ribatt cross, which tallied the only Cardinal goal in the Middlebury game. It is premature to say, however, that the Cardinals have a good chance at making the playoffs since Williams comes to Middletown on Saturday. Sports are weird, though. Anything can happen.

Wesleyan battles, which is a trait that could serve them well if they can sneak into the playoffs.

8). Bates College Bobcats

A week ago, I would’ve put the Bobcats at least top five in these rankings. An upset loss to Bowdoin last Wednesday and a loss to Conn on Saturday have really turned the Bobcats’ season upside down. I know that Conn was going to be a really hard game to win, but Bowdoin represented a winnable game. Losses like that hurt down the stretch because as a lower seed in the playoffs, the Bobcats will likely face the Ephs or Camels. The Bobcats have depended way too much on GK Sarah McCarthy ‘18. She leads the league in saves, and has shown she’s one of the best in the conference. Bates’ fall from the top of the league has been surprising, but their season isn’t over. The toughest games are out of their way, and winning out is a must to avoid Williams and Conn in the early rounds of the playoffs.

9). Bowdoin College Polar Bears

Bowdoin, unlike Bates, must’ve felt really good about themselves after Wednesday’s game. Any win against a Maine NESCAC opponent is significant. Right now, Bowdoin’s on the outside looking in regarding the playoff picture. They aren’t a hot team, so facing Hamilton and Conn next week will be tough. Picking up a win against Hamilton would be huge, but I don’t see that happening. Look for the Polar Bears to stay around #9 in the power rankings through the rest of the regular season.

10). Amherst College Mammoths

To say this season has been a disappointment for Amherst is an understatement. Normally, Amherst is really good. Like really good in just about everything— sound familiar, Williams? Therefore, a single win in conference play so far is quite shocking for an Amherst team. They’re scoring goals, but simultaneously they’re letting way too many in. They’re tied with Bates for the league’s worst in goals against. With only a few weeks left in the season and without much playoff hope, it’s now all about pride for Amherst.

11). Colby College Mules

In my high school’s athletic conference, there were numerous awards. The top team award was obviously the league championship. Nevertheless, all the awards were great, except one: the sportsmanship award. In New England prep school athletics, sportsmanship was code for ‘we feel bad for you’. In watching Colby play, they’re not a bad team, they’re really not. They don’t deserve the ‘sportsmanship’ award. A lot of the games they’ve lost were close. Obviously someone has to be last in the power rankings, but I will make excuses for Colby. They’re much better than their record. Look for a turnaround in the 2018 season because Colby truthfully has nowhere to go but up.