November 30, 2018

Williams in Final again; down Chris. Newport 2-0

Other Semifinal Recaps:  Women's Semifinal 1 Men's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2
Williams' Forward Sarah Scire with a brace leads the Ephs back to the Final.

By D3soccer.com Contributor

Photos by Dave Hilbert, d3photography.com

Defending champion Williams continued to be survivors on Friday night in the late match of the Women’s Championship Semifinal.  After narrowly “escaping” their sectional weekend by advancing on two penalty kick shootouts, the Ephs scored a goal in each half and outlasted numerous attacks by the swarming Christopher Newport offense and earn a 2-0 victory.

The Ephs will now face NESCAC rival Middlebury in Saturday’s final at 7:00 pm in Greensboro, NC. The bottom line for this match was a typical one - at this time of year, you MUST take advantage of your opportunities. In this match, the defending champs did just that and now return to the championship game to defend their title.

First Half

Williams knew coming in that this might be a tough game offensively, as their big-time scorer, All-American Sydney Jones, was unable to suit up. They would need to turn to their other offensive weapons and hope that their defense would be able to contain a potent Christopher Newport offense that was one of the best in the nation this season. And true to form, the early action was controlled mostly by the Captains, although both teams had shots early.

The Captains’ offense had their legs early and were causing confusion in the Ephs’ back line. In the 9th minute, a pair of CNU All-Americans hooked up for what seemed like an early 1-0 Captain lead. Senior Gabby Gillis found sophomore Riley Cook on a beautiful pass that Cook touched back towards the middle of the field and rocketed a shot into the back of the net past Eph keeper Olivia Barnhill. Cook was determined to be offside, and replays showed that although it was very close, Cook was indeed in an offside position at the time of Gillis’ pass.

That negated goal seemed to wake up the Williams’ defense, who started to communicate with each other and get better organized, but the Captains continued to press offensively. Gillis was a force in the midfield, disrupting the Ephs’ attack once they crossed midfield and initiating attacks at the Williams’ defense. The Captains managed another excellent opportunity at exactly the 15 minute mark, when Gillis battled her way through the Eph defense to the touchline on the right side of the box, sending a cross back into Cook, who sent a blast over the crossbar.

A few moments later, Christopher Newport earned a corner kick that afforded another excellent opportunity that they failed to capitalize on. Elite-90 winner Carson Pokorny sent in the corner and the Ephs failed to clear the ball, but the Captains, despite having numerous players in the area, could not get a clean shot on target. As often happens in these games at this time of year, the Captains didn’t take advantage of their opportunities and would pay the price. Despite controlling much of the play in the first 20 minutes, they would find themselves behind in a flash.

Ephs' Olivia Barnhill come off her line to snuff out Riley Cook's attempt at an equalizer late in the first half. 

The tide turned when the Ephs’ defense intercepted a Captain pass in their defensive third and began a counterattack that would alter the game immensely. Near midfield, Gillis barely got a foot on an Eph pass, but instead of going to a teammate, the deflection continued on to Williams midfielder Ilanda Albert, who carried the ball towards the Captains’ defense and took a hard shot outside the 18-yard box that deflected high off of a Captain defender’s shoulder.  

The CNU defense seemed to expect a whistle and got caught ball watching, while the second fortunate bounce of the play landed towards Ephs forward Sarah Scire, who stayed with the ball and took it to the right side of the box. Scire beat Captain keeper Haley Eiser on a difficult-angle shot, sending the ball towards the far left post and into the side netting for a 1-0 lead.

The goal advantage allowed the Ephs to settle into a defensive posture and absorb attacks without worrying about mounting a risky counterattack without good cause. The Captains continued to try and initiate an attack for the rest of the half, but the Ephs’ defense held firm and would not let them mount any serious threat. While the Captains still controlled much of the play, the Ephs limited CNU’s chances to mostly inert threats with well-timed defensive parries. The Captains seemed content to attempt to go right up the middle at the Ephs’ defense, which they effectively countered each time.Eph keeper Barnhill was excellent in goal, making well-timed rushes off her line and always being in the right position.

The Captains were fortunate to only be down one goal at the half when a cross into the box by the Ephs was played up and into her hand by a Captain defender in the box. While debatable on whether a penalty could have been called, the resulting attempted clearance was intercepted by an attacking Eph, who blasted a shot towards the upper ninety that keeper Eiser saved with a brilliant, sprawling dive to preserve the one goal deficit.

  Second Half

The second half began with a furious attack by the Captains that had players from both teams buzzing around the goal, but a point-blank Maddie Cochran shot was stopped by Barnhill. During the scrum around the net on the play, an Ephs’ defender was injured, and the resulting injury stoppage seemed to halt any momentum and energy that the Captains had come out with after halftime.

The Ephs then settled into a defensive posture, repelling attack after attack by the Captains by interrupting their passing game and quickly counter-attacking. Gillis seemed determined to force her will on the game and was a dominant player in the midfield but was unable to connect with teammates. The Eph defense would continually “bend, but not break”, as they allowed the Captains to control the midfield, but would make well-timed disruptions of passes and step in front of shots once Christopher Newport neared the box. The Ephs would then pounce and begin a counterattack.

Williams nearly got a goal off of a through ball to Scire in the 51st minute, but Captain keeper Eiser timed her run off of her line perfectly and cut the ball off a moment before Scire got to it. Just a few minutes later, the Ephs played another ball through and this time Eiser couldn’t perfectly time it, allowing Scire to get to the ball first. Scire was able to send a dribbler past Eiser and into the goal for a 2-0 lead.

Eph's defenders Liz Girvan and Aspen Pierson bottle up the Captain's leading scorer Riley Cook.

For the next few minutes, the Ephs pressed forward and nearly made it 3-0 with a flurry of shots, but keeper Eiser and the Captain defense held firm. The Ephs continued to frustrate the usually-productive Captain offense, not letting CNU string together any passes to mount an attack. The Captains seemed out of synch with each other, unable to complete passes and connect with teammates. Senior Gabby Gillis tried every trick in her book, but the Williams defenders double and triple-teamed her as she attempted to dribble through.

The Captains were awarded a foul near midfield in the 81st minute, but the ensuing free kick resulted in a foul by the Captains inside the box, negating any chance at a goal. It would be the last real attempt at a threat. The Ephs defense played superbly in the final moments of the game, holding the Captains shotless in the last 22 minutes of the match.

 

For the match, the Captains outshot the Ephs 19-11, with shots on goal tied at four each. Christopher Newport held a 4-2 advantage in corners, while Williams held a 4-2 advantage in saves. The Captains committed 9 fouls to 5 for the Ephs.

In the end, the bottom line was which team took advantage of their opportunities. The Captains had their chances and could have had several goals. But, they didn’t capitalize. Overall, the Ephs probably had less opportunities. But, they DID take advantage of their opportunities. Like champions do. Now, they’ll attempt to repeat as champions against a common foe, a team that they’ve faced twice already this year and split the series. Either way, the championship will be headed back to New England

 


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Other Semifinal Recaps:  Women's Semifinal 1 Men's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2
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