HARTFORD, Conn. — The Williams College women's lacrosse team (14-4, 7-3 NESCAC) fell to Amherst (16-1, 10-1 NESCAC) 9-4 in the semi-final round of the NESCAC tournament when Rachel Passarelli converted her fifth goal of the game to give the Jeffs a 6-3 lead that would start off a four-goals streak.
In their first trip to the semifinals in four years, after missing the tournament for the past two, the much-improved Ephs battled hard against the Jeffs in a tough matchup.
The Jeffs took a 3-1 lead at the end of a tightly contested first half with a strong showing from both teams. While the Ephs won four out of the five draw controls in the half, they struggled to convert goals against tough Amherst defense led by Goalie Christy Forrest. The Jeffs got on the board nearly seven minutes into play after recovering the ball off a failed clear attempt when Passarelli fired in an unassisted goal. Another seven minutes of play expired as both teams battled for possession and several turnovers for both teams caused the ball to change hands. The Ephs caused a turn over to gain possession but quickly turned the ball over back to Amherst, who transitioned the ball down to their attacking end for Passarelli to put in a second goal for the Jeffs with an assist from Elizabeth Ludlow.
Strong defense by the Ephs and a save by Ali Piltch held off the Jeff’s attack as the Ephs regained possession on their attacking end. An initial shot for the Ephs by Natalie Gill bounced off the post to Nancy Palmer who picked up the rebound and converted the first goal of the game for Williams with 5:44 remaining in the first half.
The Jeffs possessed the ball for over two minutes on their attacking end until Alex Phillie converted a third goal for the Jeff to take a two-goal lead moving into the second half.
Though the Jeffs earned the draws control at the opening of the second half, the Ephs would take the first goal of the half when Stephanie Gallo passed the ball to Becca Bell, who tucked the ball low into the net to bring the game within a goal at the 24:55 mark. A lengthy possession for Amherst followed, which ended when Passarelli converted a fourth goal for the Jeffs on a low-angle free position shot. Three minutes later Passarelli fired in a fifth goal on a strong charge to goal to give Amherst a three-goal lead with 19:23 remaining in the contest.
Key save by Piltch prevented Passarelli from converting another shot as the ball shifted back to the Ephs. The Williams attack persisted, despite several failed shot attempts, four wide, which prevented the Ephs from converting a goal on their attacking run before Forrest was able to clear the ball back to the Jeffs.
Following a penalty on Amherst, Hillary Cook streaked in front of the goal and dodged her defender to convert a goal for the Ephs on a man-up situation, which closed the gap to two-goals with 11:57 remaining.
Amherst began to stall the ball and held possession for over two minutes before Passarelli charged to goal, beating her defenders, to put in another goal for the Jeffs with 7:50 left in the contest. The Jeffs continued their stall as the Ephs' attack pressured out wide in an attempt to break the stall. With the attack drawing the Ephs' defense out wide, the Jeffs would convert three more goals, one with just 41 seconds remaining in the contest, to pull away with a six-goal lead.
The Ephs regained the ball off the draw following the Jeff’s ninth goal and Malicki scored a final goal for the Ephs with just six seconds left on the clock. The remaining time ran out with a 9-4 victory for the Jeffs, who now advance to the NESCAC championship game against Trinity College on Sunday, May 4, at noon.
"Amherst played well and we did a great job," said Williams head coach Chris Mason. "I feel like they scored six goals and the last few were just because we were trying to beak their stall. We had some opportunities to tie the game. We hit the post and shot wide and had some opportunities that we didn't convert.They had the lead and started stalling and that clinched the victory for them as they opened up and got the last few goals. We just needed to score more, and we had some little things that didn't quite go the way we needed."
Williams scoring was equally distributed among Malicki, Bell, Cook, and Palmer all with one goal. Passarelli led the Jeffs with five of their nine goals. Williams led in draw controls with nine of the 15. Piltch ended the game with nine saves, while Forrest finished with seven.
"It has been a great season. We were not ranked in the beginning, and we started moving up," said Mason. "It has been a good consistent effort they’ve put in. We’re praying for an at-large bid, and I know we’re good enough to deserve one. I do feel like we're in the top 10 on the country, and we were top four in the NESCAC. We battled through a lot and stuck together and have been pretty consistent. We have been improving, and if get another week I believe we will improve even more.”