WILLIAMSTOWN — If this was the last time the Williams College women's soccer team was going to play on Cole Field in 2015, the Ephs wanted to make sure it was a good performance.
Williams advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Division III tournament, beating The College of New Jersey 3-0 on Sunday afternoon.
"Playing on Cole is a privilege and we take advantage of all the minutes we have on Cole," said Williams co-captain Mai Mitsuyama. "We hope that we can continue to host. We don't know, because there are a lot of things that aren't in our control.
"It's great to end the season undefeated on Cole."
Evan Gancedo's goal in the first half broke a scoreless tie, while Mitsuyama and Crystal Lewin gave Williams (18-1-1) some real breathing room in the second half.
It was the second consecutive year that Williams and TCNJ played on Cole. Last year, the Ephs scored a 1-0 win to reach the Division III Final Four. It is also the fourth time in the last eight seasons that the Lions had come here for an NCAA Tournament game. It was the third time in those four trips that they left on the short end of the score.
"It's the nature of the beast," said TCNJ head coach Joe Russo. "What's the alternative, not being in the tournament?"
Williams will face Stevens Institute of Technology in a Sweet 16 game this Saturday. Stevens beat Bowdoin 4-1 on Sunday. The other half of the bracket features William Smith and Brandeis. William Smith advanced with a 5-1 win over Roger Williams. Brandeis and Amherst battled to a 1-1 draw, but the Judges beat the Lord Jeffs 3-2 on penalty kicks.
The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matches are expected to be either at Williams or at Williams Smith. The NCAA will make that announcement on today.
"I knew we were ready for today, but we were ready for today because we've learned so much about ourselves over the season," Williams coach Michelyne Pinard said. "Certainly that loss to Middlebury [in the regular-season finale] really galvanized us. Every single person really stepped up their game.
"What you saw today was an amazing result of a team coming together."
The Lions had a chance to make an early statement but Williams goalkeeper Tressa Palcheck was up to the challenge. In the 17th minute, TCNJ's Ariele Curtis took a low shot ticketed for the corner of the net, but Palcheck made a diving stop. It turned out to be the only save Palcheck made all day.
It didn't take long after that for the Ephs to channel the momentum switch into a score. Gancedo and Abby Morss worked a two-person game into a goal for Gancedo. She started the play ahead to Morss, and got the ball back on a nifty cross before shooting the ball into the lower left corner where TCNJ goalkeeper Jessica Weeder couldn't come up with the ball.
"The first goal was going to be really important," Gancedo said in a post-game press conference. "As soon as I got the ball, Abby Morss made a really good run over to the right. I kept going and she played a perfect ball in front of me, and I was able to finish it."
Williams led 1-0 at halftime in a first half that was statistically pretty close. Williams held an 8-6 shot advantage.
Williams took it to TCNJ from the start of the second half. Twelve minutes in, the Lions' Courtney Durstewitz took Williams' Kristina Alvarado down inside the goal area. The Ephs got a penalty kick and Mitsuyama buried the shot for her second career goa. Crystal Lewin gave the Ephs a 3-0 lead in the 70th minute.
"I couldn't ask for a better game for our potentially last game on Cole," said co-captain Zoe Trutner. "Being home, being on our field is just such a fantastic feeling."