Sarah Scire strikes twice to drive Williams women's soccer back into NCAA D-III national title game

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — The rubber game will decide the NCAA Division III women's soccer championship.

Williams will play NESCAC rival Middlebury after the Ephs advanced to the championship game with a 2-0 win over Christopher Newport in the second game of Friday's doubleheader. Sarah Scire scored both goals for the Ephs.

In the first game, Middlebury knocked off No. 1 Washington University-St. Louis 1-0. It was Washington's first loss of the season.

A win by Williams Saturday night would give the Ephs back-to-back championships and their third national title in four years. The last team to win back-to-back titles was Messiah, having accomplished that in 2011 and 2012.

Williams (18-1-4) and Middlebury (19-1-3) each have only one loss. That one loss came to each other.

Back on Oct. 23, Aspen Pierson's goal at 54 minutes, 8 seconds was the difference as Williams handed Middlebury a 1-0 defeat. The Panthers got some revenge, and the NESCAC tournament championship on Nov. 4, when Ellie Greenberg scored in the 68th minute for a 1-0 victory.

The other difference was in goal, where Ursula Alwang made three saves in the win over Williams. Eva Shaw was the goalkeeper in the loss to Williams.

On Friday night, the real difference in the match was the play of Scire. The Ephs were missing forward Sydney Jones, who came into the Final Four leading Williams with 10 goals — eight of them game winners. She was out with an injury, so someone had to pick up some of the offensive slack. That someone was Scire.

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Scire, who now has six goals and three game winners, put the Ephs on the board at 22:23 when she converted a blocked shot by Pittsfield's Ilana Albert into a goal. Albert took a shot that was blocked by the defense, and the ball bounded to Scire, who shot across the crease and put it in the top left corner. That was how the first half ended.

Seven minutes into the second half, Williams struck again. This time Liz Girvan sent a through ball past the defense, where Scire ran it down. Her chip from the top of the box eluded goalkeeper Haley Elser.

Williams keeper Olivia Barnhill, meanwhile was on top of her game. Christopher Newport had a 19-11 advantage in shots, but Barnhill stopped all four shots on goal that she saw. It was her 11th shutout.

In fact, after the Captains' Riley Cook and Maddie Cochran had back-to-back shots blocked by the stout Williams defense, the Captains did not have a shot in the final 23 minutes of the contest.

It was Christopher Newport's first Final Four appearance.

In the opener, Washington U. had the better of the statistics everywhere but on the scoreboard. Washington outshot the Panthers 12-3 and 8-2 in the second half. The reigning No. 1 team in the country had four corner kicks to only one for Middlebury.

But it was the Panthers who got the only goal.

Two minutes into the second half, Middlebury's Simone Ameer took a header from Greenberg and one-touched the ball past Washington goalkeeper Emma Greenfield. Gretchen McGrath got a rare second assist on the play.


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