WILLIAMSTOWN - The Williams College women’s soccer team had to take a long road to get to the NCAA Division III tournament last year. The Ephs were stopped just shy of that goal.
Williams had to play four road games in the NCAA tournament and won three before the Ephs (13-5-3) lost to William Smith in the Elite Eight.
That was then, and now, Williams coach Michelyne Pinard begins her 11th season feeling confident about the play of her squad.
"I couldn’t be more pleased with where we are," Pinard said after her team scrimmaged with NESCAC rival Middlebury on Sunday. "We’ve spent a lot of time working on our overall shape and I think this group has picked it up very well.
"The fact that we are capable of staying organized defensively and we’re keeping the ball offensively, I couldn’t be more pleased."
The 2012 season begins for Pinard and her team today with a road trip to SUNY Oneonta.
The beginning of the schedule is a positive for Williams, as the Ephs play four of their first six games on Cole Field. That includes a Sept. 22 contest against Little Three rival Wesleyan.
Any successful soccer team has to have good goalkeeping. The Williams coach calls that a strength of her team.
"I think they’re the best goalkeeping in the country," Pinard said of veterans Hannah Van Wetter, Laura Wann and Carolina Echenique. "Any one of them could step in and play.
Wann is a senior who played in 17 games and started 13 last year. She had a 0.76 goals-against average, with an .847 save percentage and five shutouts. Van Wetter made her mark as a freshman, as he played in 10 games and started eight. She gave up four goals, had a .895 save percentage, a 0.54 goals-against average and three shutouts.
The Ephs do have three of their top four scorers returning this year, but the combined goal total of Caitlyn Clark (2), Lilly Wellenbach (5) and Hayley Cook (2) didn’t equal the 11 goals of the graduated Brett Eisenhart - the all-time leading scorer in Williams history.
The aforementioned trio will be counted on to score some goals, along with seniors Sam Vilaboa and Bridget Gallagher, who played a combined 10 games between them.
"We’ve lost some potent scorers, and I think we’ll be relying on younger players to score," said Pinard. "They need the experience to show them they’re capable."
Wellenbach, who was outstanding as a freshman, will help anchor the back line with senior co-captain Chelsea Davis.
"I have never felt more confident in the back," said Pinard. "We’re as fast as we’ve ever been, and we’re as calm and composed as we have ever been."