Williams women's soccer looking to make slight adjustments to winning formula in 2017
"People graduate and styles of play graduate, and I think it's important that you evolve with your personnel," head coach Michelyne Pinard said. "I think it's probably not as dramatic as it's been made out to be. At the end of the day, it's soccer, and our style of play will remain the same, which is we like to take care of the ball, we like to be dynamic.
"It's just how we're going about doing that, that's a little bit of an adjustment."
Williams was 18-1-2 last year, and it's only true loss came in the NCAA Division III round-of-eight game, when Messiah beat the then defending national champions 4-1 on a snowy Sunday afternoon on Farley-Lamb Field.
The Ephs ended last year ranked seventh in the nation, and that is also where they will start 2017. Reigning national champion Washington-St. Louis is ranked No. 1, while national runner-up Messiah is second.
There are four New England teams in the preseason United Soccer Coaches NCAA Division III national poll: Brandeis is sixth, Williams is seventh, while Amherst is 14th and Middlebury 17th. Trinity was on the list of Also Receiving Votes.
"I'm a big believer in learning from the past. Certainly, history doesn't predict the future, but it can inform it," the veteran Eph head coach said. "I want to use previous seasons to inform what we're doing. Last year's season was incredible. It ended in a really strange way. I think it took us all a little while to get our heads around how that happened or what happened.
"I think we took the great parts from last year and are building on that."
Williams graduated eight seniors, including NESCAC player of the year Kriste Kirshe, All-NESCAC first-team forward Audrey Thomas and second-team midfielder Katie Wardlaw.
Kirshe and Thomas left Williams as the No. 1 and 2 all-time points scorers. Kirshe finished with 114 points and Thomas had 100. Kirshe also had 43 career goals, best in Williams history, while Thomas was tied for second with Class of 2012 player Brett Eisenhart with 42.
"Those two were incredibly, obviously, dynamic and they drew a lot of attention. I think we have a lot of good players who are ready to score goals," Pinard said. "I think everyone feeling a little more responsible for that job is going to pan out and play out well for us."
Two of last year's freshmen, Alison Lu and Sarah Scire, finished in the top 10 of scoring for NESCAC. Lu was second in the league with 29 points on 12 goals and five assists. Scire was seventh with seven goals and five assists.
Rising senior Danielle Sim was a first-team selection as a defender last year, while rising senior Evan Gancedo was a second-team midfielder. They join rising senior forward Jacqueline Simeone as the team's tri-captains.
Olivia Barnhill, a rising junior, returns in goal. Barnhill, who stepped in when Tressa Palcheck was injured, played in 19 games for the Ephs, gave up six goals and had a NESCAC-best 0.37 goals-against average. She also had the conference's top save percentage at .900.
Williams opens its season today against Hamilton at 4 p.m. The next four games, including NESCAC tilts with Trinity, Colby and Bowdoin, are on the road.
The Ephs have players from 10 different states and one other country (Brazil). This year, Pinard has something she has never experienced in her Williams tenure — two local players.
Ilana Albert, an All-Berkshire North midfielder from Pittsfield High School and Vermont player of the year Georgia Lord from Burr and Burton in Manchester, are freshmen on the Eph roster.
"She's playing great. It seems like she's enjoying it a great deal and she's going to help us this year for sure," Pinard said of Albert. "Then we have Georgia from Manchester. So it's two locals.
It's rare that we get one, and we have two."
Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.
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