Women's Soccer Headed To NESCAC Championship Weekend

November 2, 2006

Spurred by an unbeaten 7-0-1 mark in conference play this season, Amherst College earned the top seed and the right to host the 2006 NESCAC Women's Soccer Championship this weekend in Amherst, Mass. The Jeffs will take to the field for the first semifinal game of the day on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 11:00 a.m. against seventh seed Bates, followed shortly afterwards with fifth seed Colby facing off against third seed Middlebury at 1:30 p.m. The 2006 NESCAC Women's Soccer Championship will conclude on Sunday, Nov. 5, with the final match at 12:00 p.m.

While Amherst (11-1-1, 7-0-1 NESCAC) saw its regular season finale against NESCAC rival Williams called due to poor field conditions on Saturday, Oct. 28, the Jeffs locked up the number-one seed over a week ago after defeating Wesleyan 2-1 in Middletown, Conn., on Oct. 21. The number-one seed guaranteed Amherst an appearance in the semifinal round for the first time since 2003, after the Jeffs failed to make the round of four as the second seed in each of the last two years, most recently during the 2005 tournament after Colby played Amherst to a scoreless tie and then moved on via penalty kicks, 4-3. While only two number-one seeds have ever won the NESCAC title (Middlebury in 2000, Tufts in 2002), history may be on Amherst's side this weekend. The last two times the Jeffs have played in the semifinals they have won the entire tournament, first in 2001 and again in 2003. Currently in the midst of a six-game winning streak, the Jeffs are averaging 2.46 goals per game offensively, second among all NESCAC teams and first among this year's field of four, while their defense leads the league in goals allowed at 0.68 per game, one of three teams in this year's tournament that allows less than one goal per game. Senior goalkeeper Piper Crowell (San Rafael, Calif.) leads the league with a 0.60 goals against average, while senior forward Amy Armstrong (Avon, Conn.) heads up the attack for the Jeffs with nine goals, four of which are game- winners, and two assists for 20 points.

Seventh-seeded Bates (10-4-0, 4-4-0 NESCAC) will not be catching anyone by surprise this weekend after upending second-seeded Tufts 2-1 in overtime in the first round on Sunday, making it the third year in a row that the seventh-seeded team has advanced to the semifinals. Against this year's field, Bates holds an 0-2-0 record, falling at Amherst to open the season 3-1 on Sept. 16 and at Middlebury 5-0 on Oct. 21 while missing out on a chance to face Colby this past weekend due to poor field conditions. The defending NESCAC Women's Soccer Champion Bobcats, however, are looking to make their mark once again in tournament play, regardless of their regular season conference record. The only meeting between Bates and Amherst during the playoffs came in the 2003 championship game, as the Jeffs earned their second conference crown with a 6-0 win over the Bobcats. Looking at the Bobcats this season, the Bates offense averages 2.21 goals, fourth in the league, while the defense is allowing 1.21 goals per game, sixth among conference teams. Senior forward Kim Alexander (Cumberland, Maine) leads her club up front this season, starting all 14 games and collecting nine goals and two assists, including four game-winners.

Third-seeded Middlebury (11-2-1, 6-2-1 NESCAC) heads into the semifinals unbeaten in its last seven games with a record of 6-0-1, allowing only three goals during that period. The Panthers, who won the inaugural NESCAC Women's Soccer Championship in 2000, made their way to the semifinals for the fourth time in tournament history thanks to a 3-1 victory over sixth-seeded Bowdoin this past Sunday. While Middlebury suffered only two losses in conference play this fall, the two teams that handed the Panthers both of those losses are in this year's semifinals, Amherst (3-2 in double overtime) and Colby, their semifinal opponent. A Middlebury win on Saturday against Colby will not only give the Panthers revenge for the 2-1 loss suffered on Sept. 30 in Waterville, Maine, but will also put the Panthers into the championship game for the first time since 2004. Like top- seeded Amherst, a strong offense and defense has spelled success for Middlebury this season. The Panthers are scoring on average 2.43 goals per game in 2006, third among NESCAC teams, while holding a 0.69 goals against average, second only to Amherst. Rookie Nora Tomlinson Weintraub (Burlingame, Calif.) paces the Panther offense with seven goals, tops among league rookies and sixth among all NESCAC players.

Fifth-seeded Colby (9-2-3, 3-2-3 NESCAC) is making its second-consecutive appearance in the semifinals this year, after making the field of four for the first time in tournament history last autumn. The Mules enter the weekend thanks to a 2-1 win at fourth-seeded Williams on Sunday in the first round. Colby opened its season with an unbeaten streak of eight games (6-0-2) before finally falling to Wesleyan on the first weekend in October, 1- 0. Like Amherst and Middlebury, Colby also brings a strong defense to this year's championship, having only allowed more than one goal in a game twice this season and never allowing more than two goals. The Mules hold a 0.75 goals against average thanks to the efforts of senior netminder Liza Benson (Orchid, Fla.), who is third in the league in goals against average and first in save percentage (.899). Offensively, the Mules boast the most prolific scorer in program history with senior forward Laura Williamson (Manchester, Conn.). Williamson broke Colby's all-time goal-scoring record this past Sunday with the game-winning goal at Williams, her 44th of her career. Through 14 games this year, Williamson has 10 goals and two assists to lead the Mules while ranking her second among NESCAC players. Saturday's meeting between Colby and Middlebury will be the first in tournament history.
-courtesy NESCAC-

Semifinals - Saturday, November 4 at Amherst
No. 7 Bates at No. 1 Amherst - 11:00 a.m.
No. 5 Colby vs. No. 3 Middlebury - 1:30 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, November 5 at Amherst
Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m.