WILLIAMSTOWN -- For two months, the Williams College men's soccer team had successfully defended its home turf at Cole Field. Sunday, in the NESCAC championship game, that ended.
Second-seeded Amherst (14-0-2), the No. 2 team in the national Division III poll, scored two goals in the first 15 minutes and held off a furious Williams rally in the second half to beat the top-seeded, and No. 9 Ephs 2-0.
As the Amherst players sang and celebrated their title, the Williams players gathered around head coach Mike Russo for some postgame words. The Ephs (13-1-2) will take the runner-up trophy with them as they head into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"We've positioned ourselves well by winning some out-of-conference games this year, some tight games against some really good opponents," Williams' Peter Christman said. "I'm confident we'll be positioned well heading into the NCAAs."
The seeds for the Division III tournament will be handed out this afternoon. While Amherst will receive the automatic bid that goes to the conference champion, Williams should be in line to receive an at-large bid.
All of that was secondary for the celebrating Lord Jeffs, whose current crop of seniors had never beaten Williams.
When these two teams met on Oct. 6, the Ephs and Lord Jeffs battled to a scoreless tie. It took only one minute, 13 seconds for that streak to end.
Amherst took the opening kick and moved smartly into the Williams end. Amherst midfielder Chris Lerner served the ball from right in front of his bench to the far post on the right. Jae Heo got up over the Eph defense and headed the ball past keeper Than Finan.
"It really killed us. We came out ready to play," Williams coach Mike Russo said. "They're very athletic. They live on those kind of plays where they put balls into the penalty box and flick them on. They did catch us and I thought we were a little bit asleep, perhaps."
Fourteen minutes later, James Mooney gave Amherst a 2-0 lead.
Williams was outshot 12-1 in the first half. Tim Marchese got the first shot on net for the Ephs, forcing Amherst goalie Thomas Bull to make a save in the 71st minute.
Williams managed a 10-7 shot advantage in the second half. The Ephs did get good scoring opportunities, but couldn't cash in.
Amherst coach Justin Serpone said he expects both teams to qualify for the NCAAs, and wouldn't be surprised to see Williams again.
"I think we'd both be happy, he said. "It would mean that we'd still be playing in a couple of weekends."