WILLIAMSTOWN — In each of the last two years, the Williams College softball team has hosted an NCAA Division III Regional on Cole Field. Unfortunately for the Ephs, that was where their dream of a first NCAA title came to an end.
The Ephs will get a third shot at playing in a Super Regional as they host a Regional this weekend. Williams will play Johnson & Wales while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology plays Western Connecticut.
"It's been great that we've always been able to play here at Cole. It's something we really cherish and something we always look forward to do," said Eph co-captain Erica Li. "Everybody's playing at their best, and it's always an exciting time.
"Maybe we can finally win it here."
The doubleheader starts at noon with MIT and Western Connecticut. The games were moved 90 minutes earlier because the weather forecast calls for a chance of rain in the later afternoon.
The teams are playing for the right to head for Salem, Va., and the Division III championships.
Last year, Williams reached the regional final but lost to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the championship game. WPI went on to play Tufts in the Super Regional, but the Jumbos went on to win a second consecutive NCAA title. The year before, however, is the one that the Ephs remember more painfully.
Williams beat Endicott in Friday's first round back in 2014, then losing to Tufts in the winner's bracket final that Saturday morning. Unfortunately for the Ephs, Endicott came back with a 4-3 win in the elimination game, walking off with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
"Looking back, we've always wanted to work hard to get past Regionals. We've made it to Regionals the past two years," said co-captain Kacey Cramer. "This year, our goal is to go further and to make it out of this tournament."
Williams coach Kris Herman said that there isn't one particular thing she can put her finger on as to what the senior class took from the losses in the last two Regionals.
"I think it was more about how we played all year long rather than how we'll play this weekend," said the coach. "I don't think the 2015 team has had an impact on the 2016 team right now. Over the long haul, for sure, I think the seniors learn from all three teams they're on.
"They learn from every team that they've ever been on."
It is a Williams team that has already scratched one big thing off its to-do list. When Williams beat Tufts 8-3 in Sunday's "if" game to win the NESCAC Tournament title, it was the first time since 2006 that the Ephs won a conference title. It had also ended a string of five consecutive NESCAC titles for Tufts.
The Jumbos are also hosting a Regional this weekend, and if the NESCAC rivals hold serve, the two would meet in next week's Super Regional.
"This team is special. I don't think we need to compare ourselves to other years," said Williams' Li, the NESCAC co-player of the year. "I think there's something special about this team and we're going to do some great things."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.