Courtesy of Williams College
For 29 years, Mike Russo’s Williams side and Jon Anderson’s Babson team have clashed in an annual cross-state battle. Each coach maintains a firm respect for the other, and each coach strives and connives for ways to beat the other.
On Sunday, Anderson and his side prevailed one last time. In an upset, the unranked Beavers (6-1-0) defeated the No. 3 Ephs (3-1-0, 2-0-0 NESCAC) by a 1-0 count. With Russo set to retire at the end of the season, the two coaches will not face each other again, barring a meeting in the NCAA tournament later this year. “There are mixed feelings, and it’s tough for me to see us beat him in the last game we’re going to face him” said Anderson. “But we play to win, and let’s face it, it’s a great win in Williamstown.”
The win was especially gratifying for Anderson’s Beavers in light of the last time the two teams met, when the Ephs scored twice in the game’s first 10 minutes and cruised to a 4-2 victory. “We remembered that one,” said Anderson.
Williams controlled the game’s opening quarter hour but generated few chances. Luke Pierce and JC Bahr-de Stefano both sent shots from inside the 18 comfortably wide, while Matt Muralles had multiple shots blocked by the Babson back line. While the Beavers appeared pliant early on and conceded significant space when Williams had possession, their resistance stiffened near the goal—a defiance that slowly percolated up the field for Babson.
An apparently harmless play helped the Beavers turn the tide and outperform the Ephs for the remainder of the half. A probing run into the offensive third and a dangerous cross from Tyler Carlos across the goalmouth forced Chris Conder into an awkward clearance that resulted in a corner kick. One corner soon turned into three in a row, and while the restarts collectively came to naught, the Beavers began wear away at the Eph defense after the sequence. Like the Ephs, though, they failed to register a shot on goal in the game’s first half hour and did little to otherwise test Williams’ Christian Alcorn in goal
That changed abruptly in the 36th minute, as the Beavers scored off a broken set piece. Following a Williams foul, Carlos’s sent a low free kick from 40 yards out curling uncertainly into the box, where Andres’ Burbank-Crump was first to get a touch on the ball. He could not control it, though, and lost possession to Babson co-captain Justin Laurenzo, who took two diagonal touches towards the right corner flag before ripping a shot past a charging Alcorn to put the Beavers ahead.
As they did in the match’s first minutes, Williams spent much of the second half buzzing around the Babson goal but struggled mightily to complete passes around the penalty area. For their part, the Beavers did an excellent job blocking shots, making the Ephs 21-8 advantage in shots a misleading one. In net, Tanner Click handled each of the three lukewarm shots that came his way with ease and smothered several other Eph crosses comfortably. “It was very frustrating,” said Russo. “Our final passes were off, and we would slow down [on offense] instead of speeding up play.”
Ironically, it was Click who provided the Ephs with their best chance to equalize. In the 83rdminute, the senior goalie was penalized for holding onto the ball too long, giving the Ephs an indirect free kick inside the 18. But Zach Grady’s shot off a token touch from Muralles was emphatically spat out by a Babson block, forcing the ever-more desperate Ephs to regroup.
Two of the game’s six yellow cards were handed out in the final 68 seconds as tensions ran high, but to no effect on the final score line, as the Ephs got no closer than David Madding’s hard but wide shot with 1:57 to play. After Click smothered one last Eph cross, the Beavers stormed out onto the field to celebrate their first victory at Williams since the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament and their first regular season result at Cole Field since 1996, when the two sides battled to a 1-1 draw.
After the match, Russo spoke to his team for longer than usual, and urged them to maintain perspective. “I just said that they had to let it go,” Russo recounted. “The effort and the intensity were there. We just needed someone to step up, and that didn’t happen.”