Courtesy of Williams Sports Information
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – In overtime, top-seeded Williams defeated No. 4 Tufts, 2-1, at Cole Field to win the 2017 NESCAC Women's Soccer Championship. It is the Ephs' eighth title in school history.
Eph forward Natasha Albaneze had the best opportunity of the first half. In the 13th minute, she found space to shoot just beyond the left edge of the penalty area. Her curling effort bounced high off the left goal post and over the end line.
In the 21st minute, Liz Reed put a hard shot on goal for Tufts, but Williams goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill made the save. Sophie Lloyd made a long run into the box in the 27th minute and set up midfielder Sarah Grubman with a chance for the Jumbos, but Grubman's shot sailed over the crossbar.
Williams pushed forward toward the end of the period, and midfielder Victoria Laino found herself with two shooting opportunities at the edge of the box, but both her attempts were narrowly off target.
The game remained scoreless at halftime, with the Ephs held a 4-3 edge in shots.
In the 56th minute, a long-distance effort from tri-captain Jacqueline Simeone nearly snuck inside the near post, but Tufts goalkeeper Emily Bowers got a hand on the shot.
The Jumbos broke through in the 59th minute. Lloyd received the ball in space on a counterattack and played a pass forward for Alessandra Sadler. Sadler took a touch and chipped a shot past the Barnhill and into the net, putting Tufts up 1-0.
Minutes later, Williams forward Sydney Jones created a promising opportunity for the Ephs. Jones ran down the right side and picked out midfielder Aspen Pierson, who was unmarked near the penalty spot, but Tufts' defender Taylor Koscho slid across to block Pierson's shot.
Tufts continued to attack with the advantage, and the Jumbos' pace created difficulties on the counterattack. Eph tri-captain defender Danielle Sim made a tackle on Sadler in the 64th minute to prevent a scoring chance.
Williams leveled the match in the 81st minute. A crowd of players fought in a scrum in the Jumbos' penalty area, the ball fell to Eph midfielder Natalie Turner-Wyatt. Bowers saved a shot from Turner-Wyatt, but the ball bounced out to Laino, who sent the ball back into the penalty area. Turner-Wyatt broke free on the left side of the box, and she slipped the second attempt inside the near post to knot the score at 1-1.
Having gained momentum from the equalizer, the Ephs pushed forward in the final minutes of regulation. In the 82nd minute, Bowers was forced off her line to make a clearance. The ball fell to Albaneze, who had an open look, but Bowers came lunging across the box to keep the shot out.
Despite the increased intensity at the end of the half, the score remained 1-1 after 90 minutes.
In overtime, Tufts had an opportunity less than three minutes into extra session. Grubman found space to shoot near the edge of the box. Her attempt, however, carried over the bar.
Forward Alison Lu notched the game-winner for the Ephs 4:30 into extra time. Albaneze made a run into the box and played a through ball to Lu, who calmly put her shot past the keeper and into the net and lifted Williams to its eighth title and seventh in the last 11 years.
The Ephs finished with a 17-8 shot advantage. Bowers made eight saves for Tufts, while Barnhill had two for Williams.
As conference champions, the Ephs secured an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Williams will learn its seeding and first-round matchup during the NCAA Selection Show, which begins at 1 p.m. on Monday.