Williams beats Tufts 2-1 in overtime to claim NESCAC women's soccer title, automatic NCAA D-III berth
WILLIAMSTOWN — The Williams College women's soccer team hadn't had to come from behind to win 15 times this year. Getting the hang of that this weekend earned the Ephs a NESCAC championship
The Ephs, who came into the weekend as the third-ranked Division III team in the nation, got a goal from Natalie Turner-Wyatt with less than 10 minutes to play in regulation and a golden goal from Alison Lu midway through the first overtime, as the top-seeded Ephs knocked off Tufts 2-1 at Cole Field Sunday afternoon.
"I don't really know how to describe it. It was an amazing feeling," Lu said. "I could hear our bench and everyone on our team the moment I hit it."
It was the second time in two days that the Ephs had to rally to get a win.
"I hope not too used to it," co-captain Evan Gancedo said with a laugh. "Hopefully, we can turn that around."
"The toughness, the confidence that we can deal with anything and the resilience, I think they believe so much in what we're doing and in each other," Williams coach Michelyne Pinard said. "I think that shows in the toughest of moments."
The win gives Williams (16-1-1) its eighth NESCAC title since the conference began playing a post-season tourney in 2000, and first since 2015. Tufts, the fourth seed, reached the championship game for the first time since 2005, and the Jumbos (10-5-3) were seeking their first post-season crown.
On Saturday, Williams advanced by scoring four times in the second half to beat No. 7 seed, and arch-rival Amherst 4-2.
"Playing Amherst in the first game is obviously such a tough game and so emotional," Gancedo said. "Having a great win there and coming back with tired legs, but a lot of energy and excitement because we know what this team is capable of.
"We wanted it so bad."
The Ephs are making their 11th consecutive NCAA Division III tournament appearance. The Ephs will find out who they will play after Monday's 1 p.m. selection show.
Turner-Wyatt got a second chance on her tying goal. Her first shot was stopped by goalkeeper Emily Bowers, who had eight saves for Tufts. The rebound caromed to Victoria Laino, who passed the ball back to Turner-Wyatt, and the junior beat Bowers to the left post at 80:23. The goal came more than 20 minutes after Tufts' Alessandra Sadler broke the scoreless tie on a well-placed shot into the top of the net at 58:56.
Williams had the wind in the second half, but wasn't able to generate an early goal. The tying tally really turned things around. All of a sudden, the Ephs were on the attack and the Jumbos were back on their heels.
"We made some tactical changes, and we weren't really sure if they were going to work," said Gancedo. "When we got that goal, all the confidence rushed in."
In overtime, Tufts had the first good chance when Sarah Grubman shot over the bar about three minutes in.
Just over a minute later, Natasha Albaneze tore into the box, playing a through ball to Lu, who put the ball in the back of the net.
"I remember Tash just dribbling the ball up the field, kind of down the center," said Lu. "She was pretty much able to play it right to my feet, which was a great pass by her."
The goal set off a championship celebration for Lu and the Ephs.
Williams will wait with the rest of Division III for the selection show. As the No. 3 team in the nation and the No. 1 team in the New England Region, it is likely the Ephs will be home for the first and second rounds.
"I think any time you can win championships, it's a lot of fun. I think this team believes in itself," Pinard said. "To have this come together today and this weekend, it was a tough, grueling weekend, feels really good. We can't wait for the NCAA Tournament."
Tufts 0 1 0 — 1
Williams 0 1 1 — 2
T — Alessandra Sadler (Sophie Lloyd), 58:56. W — Natalie Turner-Wyatt (Victoria Laino), 80:23.
W — Alison Lu (Natasha Albaneze), 94:30.
Saves — T: Emily Bowers 8. W: Olivia Barnhill 2.
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, and 413-496-6253.
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