GREENSBORO, N.C. - The Williams College Ephs won the NCAA Division III Women's Soccer title for the second consecutive year by edging NESCAC foe Middlebury, 3-2, in penalty kicks at the UNCG Soccer Stadium in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Ephs complete the season with a record of 18-1-5 and win their third title in four years.
Middlebury, which was making its first appearance in the national championship game, finishes the season with a program-record 19 wins and a 19-1-4 record. Both team's only blemish on the year came at the hands of the other squad.
In a rematch of the NESCAC Championship game, won by Middlebury, 1-0, Williams was the first team to crack the scoreboard. Georgia Lord carried the ball up the left wing and sent a cross into the box. Ilana Albert touched the service to the right, where Aspen Pierson collected the pass, turned and struck a shot just out of the reach of Middlebury goalkeeper Ursula Alwang. The goal snapped a streak of 446:52 scoreless minutes by Alwang that spanned the last six NCAA matches.
The Ephs carried the one-goal advantage into halftime.
Williams nearly made the score 2-0 on another strike by Pierson in the 76th minute but was denied by Alwang's diving save to her right.
On the ensuing counter, Middlebury tied the match at the 77:40 mark on an own goal. An Eph defender's attempt to clear the ball from six yards out deflected off Williams goalie Olivia Barnhill and slipped into the back of the net to level the match, 1-1.
Neither team could find the go-ahead goal in the final 10 minutes and the game headed to overtime.
The Ephs had a pair of scoring threats early in the first overtime, but Alwang made each stop. With just over a minute remaining in the first extra session, a shot by Middlebury's Eliza Van Voorhis went wide of the far post. In the final seconds of the period, a loose ball inside the penalty box was struck by the Ephs' Sarah Scire, but Alwang came off her line and deflected it with her foot to send the match to a second overtime.
Eliza Robinson had the best scoring opportunity for the Panthers in the second overtime, but her strike went over the end line as Barnhill came out to challenge. Victoria Laino's shot with five minutes remaining in the second overtime was the best look for the Ephs, but the attempt went wide and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Middlebury goalie Eva Shaw was inserted between the pipes, while Barnhill was in net for the Ephs for the penalty shootout. Each keeper denied the first attempts by the respective shooters, but each team converted in the second round. In the third round, Pierson stepped up and drilled a shot into the upper portion of the net, while Barnhill denied the third Panther attempt. Shaw was able to make a save on the Ephs' fourth penalty kick and Middlebury's Cate Shellenback converted her attempt to even the shootout at 2-2. In the fifth round, Williams first-year Rain Condie slid her shot past Shaw and Barnhill tipped Middlebury's offering off the post to clinch the title for the Ephs.
Alwang finished the contest with two saves, while Barnhill was credited with one stop. The Ephs held a 13-7 advantage in shots and a 6-2 edge in corner kicks.
NOTES: The contest was the first between two NESCAC programs in the NCAA Women's Soccer Championship match. It also marked the third time in the last five title matches that an NCAA Champion was crowned via penalty kicks. Williams became the first team to repeat since Messiah in 2011 and 2012 as the Ephs also claimed the 2017 NCAA Championship. The contest marked the fourth time in the last five years that a NESCAC team has competed in the championship match.