Women's Soccer Looks For NESCAC Title - Watch Live!

November 4, 2009

Williams College, the two-time defending NESCAC Women's Soccer Champions, will look to become the first team to win three consecutive conference crowns this weekend when the Ephs host the 2009 NESCAC Women's Soccer Championship at Cole Field in Williamstown, Mass. Saturday's first semifinal will feature top-seeded Williams against fourth-seeded Tufts at 11:00 a.m., followed by a rematch of last year's second semifinal with third-seeded Middlebury taking on second-seeded Amherst at 1:30 p.m. The 2009 NESCAC Women's Soccer Championship concludes on Sunday, Nov. 8, with the final getting underway at 12:00 p.m.

Williams (15-0-0, 9-0-0 NESCAC) capped a perfect regular season for the third time this decade (2001, 2007) last Friday at Middlebury, but the task was by far anything but easy down the stretch. After getting past their semifinal opponent, Tufts, 1-0 at home on Oct. 24 on a late goal from senior Brianna Wolfson (Brookville, N.Y.), the Ephs slipped past the Panthers a week later with another late tally, this time off the foot of senior Sarah Walmsley (Pelham Manor, N.Y.). Williams returned to its high-scoring ways on Sunday in the quarterfinals against Colby with a 4-0 shutout of the Mules, the Ephs' 12th clean sheet of the season. The defending champs made history last fall when they became the first team to capture back-to-back titles in a 3-2 overtime victory against rival Amherst, and a pair of wins by Williams this weekend would establish a dynasty unmatched by any other previous champion. This season, the Ephs lead the league in scoring for the third year in a row with an average of 3.40 goals per game, a figure that is over a goal higher than second place Amherst and Middlebury. Pacing Williams in scoring this season has been the tandem of Annelise Snyder (Ashby, Mass.) and Brett Eisenhart (Seattle, Wash.). Both players have scored 11 goals so far and are tied for second among conference players for tallies, just one goal behind the current leader. While the Ephs' offense poses a problem for every team it faces, the defense provides an even greater challenge to foes in that it does not give up many opportunities. Williams has surrendered only three goals through 15 games, which is not too surprising given the fact that the Ephs have allowed less than two shots on goal per contest. Goalkeepers Lauren Sinnenberg (Westfield, N.J.) and Julia Schreiber (Cockeysville, Md.) have split time in net this season and both have provided strong support when called upon.

Looking to put a stop to the Ephs' run will be fourth-seeded Tufts (8-6-1, 4-4-1 NESCAC). While the lone meeting of the season between the two teams took place only two weeks ago, the Jumbos will readily recall the result: a late goal that held up in a 1-0 decision and scuttled their chances at ending the Ephs' unbeaten streak in regular season play. Williams is 42-0-1 since its last regular season loss, a setback which came at the hands of Tufts on Oct. 21, 2006 (1-0). The contest also marked the last time the Jumbos have scored a goal against the Ephs, a streak that stands at 270 minutes. Saturday's semifinal showdown will be the third in tournament history for the two squads. Tufts took the first meeting en route to its first and only league crown during the 2002 final by a 3-0 score, however Williams upended the higher-seeded Jumbos in the 2004 first round 1-0 as the Ephs went on to win their first NESCAC title that year. The Jumbos started off the 2009 conference slate with a pair of losses before going on a 4-0-1 run in league play midway through the season, only to drop their last two matches to Williams and Bowdoin by 1-0 scores. Tufts reached the semifinals for the third time in the past five years with a 2-1 win over Trinity during Sunday's quarterfinals. Statistically this season, the Jumbos rank eighth in goals per game with 1.33 but the defense is only behind Williams and Amherst among conference squads, allowing 0.66 goals per game. Senior Kate Minnehan (Hopkinton, N.H.) has played every minute of every game so far this season for Tufts, posting a 0.66 goals against average, an .853 save percentage, and seven shutouts. Up front, classmate Whitney Hardy (Truckee, Calif.) heads up the attack, as she is seventh in the conference in goals with seven.

After suffering its only conference loss to Williams on Oct. 3, 3-0, second-seeded Amherst (12-2-1, 7-1-1) constructed a 6-0-1 record to close out the regular season and outscored opponents by an 18-2 margin. Even with the dominating performance down the stretch, the Jeffs may have missed out on the semifinals were it not for the efforts of 2008 NESCAC Player of the Year Meg Murphy (Springfield, Mass.) who had both goals - including the game-winner two minutes into overtime on a free kick - in a 2-1 victory against a pesky Wesleyan squad on Sunday. Amherst returns to the semifinals for the third time in four years with the hope of winning the program's first championship since 2003. During their previous two trips, the Jeffs advanced to Sunday's final only to be turned back in overtime both times. Leading a balanced attack is Murphy, a three-time All-NESCAC First Team selection, with five goals and six assists for 16 points. Junior forward Jackie Hirsch (Wilmette, Ill.) has contributed a team-best six goals, while first years Emily Little (Sherborn, Mass.) and Hannah Cooper (Bethesda, Md.) join Murphy in having five goals apiece. In the back, goalkeeper Allie Horwitz (Woodbridge, Conn.) heads up a defense that ranks just behind Williams with a goals against average of 0.59. Through 15 outings, the sophomore owns a 0.44 goals against average, a .919 save percentage, and six shutouts.

Amherst will take on a very familiar foe in the form of third-seeded Middlebury (11-2-2, 7-2-0 NESCAC). The Jeffs and the Panthers have faced each other four times in the postseason, with three of those four meetings occurring during the last three years. In a playoff series which stands at 2-2 for each team, Middlebury has played the role of spoiler in recent meetings. The Panthers upset the top-seeded Jeffs for the 2006 championship in overtime, 1-0, then returned a year later and upset the higher-seeded Jeffs once again during the first round by the same score. Amherst evened its all-time tournament record against Middlebury in 2008 with a 1-0 win of its own during the semifinals at Williams. Middlebury opened the season with a seven-game winning streak and outscored opponents 17-2 during that period before faltering at Amherst on Oct. 10, 6-1. Like Amherst, Middlebury also needed overtime to get past its quarterfinal opponent, Bowdoin, as junior Annie Rowell's (Craftsbury, Vt.) team-leading 10th goal of the season during the 97th minute was the only one in the game. Offensively, the Panthers are tied with the Jeffs for second in the conference with 2.33 goals per game while the defense sits in fourth with a 0.69 goals against average. Part of an offense that features 12 different goal scorers, Rowell is ranked sixth among her conference counterparts in points (22) and is tied for fourth in goals. In net, junior Lauryn Torch (Bronxville, N.Y.) has been just as impressive as her counterparts in attendance this weekend, recording seven shutouts with a 0.73 goals against average and an .859 save percentage. The two players will play key roles in helping the Panthers in their pursuit of a third NESCAC championship (2000, 2006) this weekend.

Semifinals - Saturday, November 7 at Williams

No. 4 Tufts at No. 1 Williams - 11:00 a.m.
No. 3 Middlebury vs. No. 2 Amherst - 1:30 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, November 8 at Williams
Semifinal Winners - 12:00 p.m.

-- courtesy NESCAC --