Courtesy of Williams College
After nearly two hours of soccer, the scoreboard announced that the Williams and RPI men’s soccer team took 10 shots on goal apiece on Tuesday afternoon. And in a way, that’s appropriate, given that the two regional powers came away with a 1-1 tie in a non-conference matchup at the Williams’ Cole Field.
The overall shot totals tell a different story: there, the Ephs (3-1-2, 2-1-0 NESCAC) held a 33-11 advantage over the No. 14 Engineers (6-1-2, 1-0-0 Liberty), a stat that underlies the Ephs consistent control of possession through most of the match. Which stat was more telling? “I thought we had more chances than them,” said Williams coach Mike Russo said. “But I don’t know; maybe the scoreboard is accurate.”
For a brief moment, the scoreboard showed that the Ephs had won. Two minutes into the second overtime, Matt Muralles received a cross on the right side and sent the ball back into the middle forZach Grady, who volleyed home to give Williams an apparent victory. But as the Ephs spilled onto the field, they noticed that the side judge’s flag was up; indeed, it had gone up as soon as Muralles’ pass came Grady’s way. The scoreboard, after initially accounting for Grady’s phantom tally, was reset to show the two teams tied once more.
Grady was the reason the two teams were tied at all. With the Ephs trailing 1-0 in the 78th minute and a trace of desperation beginning to creep into their attack, Muralles charged into space and was pulled down by an RPI defender to the right of and a few yards out from the penalty arc. Five Engineers formed a wall in front of Rob Dewald’s goal; all of them could do nothing but watch when Grady drove a brilliant strike into the upper right corner of the goal before sprinting to the sidelines to celebrate his team-leading fourth goal of the season, off a free kick that he looked ready to give away. “I thought Zach was going to let Matt [Muralles] take it,” said Russo of the goal. “But I’m glad Zach took it. He strikes the ball a ton.”
The marker erased the gap the Engineers had created with their own goal off a set piece less than 10 minutes earlier. After earning their fourth corner kick of the afternoon, the Engineers swarmed through the box for several long seconds before Dylan Weitz’s restart found Matt Koziol making a run to the near post. Williams keeper Bobby Schneiderman made the initial save, but the pall pinballed off multiple players from both sides before finally coming to the feet of Nathaniel Gunderson at the far post, unmarked and unimpeded after the pre-kick scramble. Gunderson easily tucked home his third goal of the season, giving the Engineers their short-lived lead. “I don’t know what happened on that,” said Russo of the chaos in the penalty area.
The third time was the charm for Gunderson, who created a golden opportunity in each half with his speed up the wing. In the first half, he collected a through ball and outran two Williams defenders before firing off a low shot that Schneiderman managed to get his left forearm on to steer it wide for a corner. Then, minutes past the hour mark, Gunderson stole an errant back pass from Williams stopper Luke Pierce, took four big strides up the left side and let fly with a wicked rising shot that Schneiderman, a freshman playing his first full game in net, corralled cleanly with an excellent diving stop. “He was very, very good,” said Russo of his goalie’s maiden start, in which he made nine saves. “He took charge, and the save [on Gunderson in the second half] was spectacular.”
For their part, the Ephs failed to capitalize on a steady stream of chances from nearly the opening whistle, beginning when Muralles found himself all alone in front of the goalmouth but headed Chris Conder’s cross over the bar. Dewald did well to stop most everything that came his way, particularly a vicious point-blank Michael Madding shot off an Eph counter in the 15th minute. The shot nearly knocked the perfectly-positioned Dewald over, but he held his ground to keep the game scoreless.
The Ephs have now failed to score from the run of play for three straight games, in which they are 0-2-1, and over more than five hours dating back to the second half of their September 13 win over Trinity. Their three-game winless streak, meanwhile, is the team’s longest since 2009, when the Ephs tied two straight games in the NCAA tournament (advancing on penalty kicks both times) before falling to Messiah in the national semifinals.