The Williams women's soccer team won their fifth NESCAC title in six years on Sunday. See more photos here.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Nobody likes using penalty kick shootouts to decide soccer matches.
No one, that is, with the possible exception of Williams College senior Laura Wann.
Wann stopped two shots to lead her team to a 3-0 advantage in the best-of-five shootout and a victory over Bowdoin in Sunday's New England Small College Athletic Conference championship.
"I love PKs," she said. "I would rather not have to be in that situation, and I've only been in that situation a handful of times. Last year at Hamilton was the first time ever in college.
"It's a new experience for me, but I love it."
And Williams coach Michelyne Pinard loved being able to put Wann between the pipes after her Ephs (12-3-2) played Bowdoin (11-3-3) to a 1-1 draw through regulation and 20 minutes of overtime.
"Laura's a great goalkeeper, and this plays to her strengths," Pinard said. "She's a great shot-stopper.
"We had the advantage of having a read on them yesterday, and it helped us out today. Overall, it was an unbelievable game, and it's too bad it had to come down to PKs, but we'll take it."
A year after losing to rival Amherst in the conference final, Williams' women won their fifth NESCAC title in the last six years and seventh out of the 13 years they've had a tournament.
On Monday afternoon, Pinard's team finds out where it will open the NCAA Division III tournament next weekend. They likely will be joined in the NCAAs by the Williams men, who fell short in their bid for a NESCAC title. On the adjacent Cole Field pitch, Amherst's men won their second straight league crown with a 2-0 victory over the Ephs.
The second-ranked Jeffs (15-0-2) scored in the third minute of the game and never let up, compiling a 19-11 advantage in shots, including a 12-1 shot advantage in the first half.
Goaltender Laura Wann is congratulated by teammates after blocking two Bowdoin goals.
Both Amherst goals were generated by senior Chris Lerner with ball from the wings.
First, he booted a cross from the left wing into the box where Jae Heo headed it inside the far post past keeper Than Finan (four saves). Fourteen minutes later, Lerner's throw-in from the right wing found the head of 6-foot-4 Gabriel Wirz, who headed it down to the foot of James Mooney. Mooney scored his fifth goal of the season to provide the final margin.
"They're very athletic, and they live on those kinds of plays where they hit balls into penalty boxes and flick them on," Williams coach Mike Russo said. "They did catch us a little bit. We were a little bit asleep, perhaps and weren't quite alert enough to No. 1 allow the ball to be played to the box and No. 2 no one was marking the kid."
Ninth-ranked Williams (13-1-3) had a few good chances to get back into the game, none better than Timothy Marchese's header on the left side of the box with 19:15 left which Amherst's Thomas Bull caught for one of his four second-half saves.
Despite the loss, Williams is all but assured a return to the NCAA tournament after missing out last seasons. Russo has taken the Ephs to 16 D-III tournaments since 1993, the first year the college allowed the program to play in the NCAAs. His teams are 27-11-6 in the national tournament with one championship (1995) and four appearances in the national semifinals.
Pinard has taken Williams to seven NCAA tourneys in her 11 years at the helm. Her teams are 13-5-3 in the Division III tournament including last year's run to the national quarterfinals.
On Sunday, her team got on the board first after Bowdoin was whistled for a handball in the box at 17:59 of the first half. Senior Chloe Kuh converted Williams' first penalty kick of the afternoon by going low and to the left-hand side of Bowdoin goalkeeper Bridget McCarthy (eight saves).
Bowdoin bounced back fewer than three minutes later when Jamie Hofstetter scored an unassisted goal from the right side of the box.
The Eph men failed to score a NESCAC title but are expected to win an NCAA berth.
It stayed 1-1 through the second half and both overtime sessions, setting the stage for Wann's heroics.
The shootout started with a goal by sophomore Lilly Wellenbach low and to McCarthy's right. Wann than dove to her right to deny Bowdoin's Becky Stoneman.
Senior Caitlyn Clark kept the pressure on by driving a shot into the top corner of the goal to put Williams ahead 2-0 in the shootout. Wann then made a leaping save to her right against the Bears' Casey Blossom.
Williams' freshman Crystal Lewin gave her team a 3-0 lead on its next kick, meaning Bowdoin had to make its next shot to stay alive. But Toni DeCampo's offering sailed wide of the net, and the Ephs stormed the field to celebrate.
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