WILLIAMSTOWN, MA--A pair of quick and late second-half tallies proved to be the difference on Sunday as the Williams' men's soccer team downed the Babson Beavers by a 2-0 count at Cole Field. The win extended the Ephs season-long unbeaten streak to 11 games (9-0-2, 6-0-2 NESCAC) while the Beavers had their six-game winning streak snapped and fell to 11-3-1 (4-0-0 NEWMAC).
The game's first moments were characterized by a frenetic pace that saw both teams nearly break the ice within the match's first 40 seconds. Even after the initial panic subsided, the pace hardly slowed down, and the half remained a back-and-forth affair throughout. The Ephs' offensive effort was led by Zach Grady, who made his first start of the season and recorded three shots within the game's first 15 minutes, including one attempt that nearly snuck past Babson goalie Jackson Klein in the 5th minute.
By far the best chance of the half belonged to the Beavers, when Jimmy Stento broke free down the right sideline and sent a cross on the ground to an unimpeded Eric Anderson. Anderson chipped the ball past a charging Peter Morrell for what appeared to be the first goal of the game, but an offside call—hotly disputed by the Babson bench—nullified the effort.
About five minutes later, the Beavers again threatened when Kevin Israel floated a dangerous cross into a crowded penalty area. Morrell leapt and punched away the initial cross, then regained his footing in time to smother a follow-up effort from Shawn Citro. A moment later, Morrell was again tested when Anderson rifled a long shot toward the back post, but once more the Eph keeper was up to the task.
Neither team was able to create much serious offense for a substantial portion of the second half, a testament in part to the solid set of fullbacks that both sides deployed. The Beavers had a chance to break through in 74th minute when Tyler Carlos' direct kick found David Abers, whose sprawling header bounded just wide of the back post.
Moments later, the dam suddenly burst in the Ephs' favor. Andres' Burbank-Crump got things rolling with a penetrating corner kick that Klein did well to punch out. However, the ball rolled fortuitously to the feet of Grady, who slid a pass back to halfback Matt Muralles. Muralles blasted a one-timer against the flow of bodies exiting the 18-yard-box, past a still-recovering Klein and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Williams advantage with just under 15 minutes to play in regulation
Less than three minutes passed before the Ephs doubled their lead. Babson immediately grew more aggressive following the goal, and their sustained forward attack ultimately led to Eph defender Chris Seitz finding himself with the ball and some space in Beaver territory. Seitz cut back and sent a low cross into the box for Mohammed Rashid, but the ball never reached its target. Instead, Abers slid and inadvertently popped the ball over the head of an oncoming Klein and into the back of the net.
That was more than enough for Morrell, who made one final stop on Stento late to seal the shutout and claim his fifth win in as many starts this year.
"We've had great goalkeeping this year," said Coach Mike Russo. "Most teams have one good goalie, but we're lucky enough to have two."
The Ephs also continued another remarkable streak with the win, as they have yet to concede a goal at home in 2012, an achievement that testifies to the kind of campaign the Ephs have put together this year.
"I can't be more proud of these guys," opined Russo, who was also quick to credit his team's depth as a major reason for its perfect record in Sunday games this year. "The boys believe in themselves now, and that's as important as anything in this sport."
Babson now travels to Springfield, where it will take on the Pride next Saturday in conference action. The Ephs are also scheduled to hit the road and will take on NESCAC foe Colby in Maine this Saturday in a game that may prove critical for seeding purposes in the conference tournament.
"We've got to get business done," said Russo.