Coming in hot off of its first win of the season against Eastern Conn., the women’s soccer team entered its Family Weekend matchup against Hamilton with plenty of momentum. After their win, the Cardinals looked to improve their conference record in a crucial home game. Saturday seemed the perfect day to start a winning streak, in front of a roaring crowd of nearly 300 supporters.
With a win, the Birds would be able to jump ahead of their opponents in the conference standings and out of the NESCAC cellar. Wesleyan entered the battle sporting a 1-6-1 overall record and a 0-3-1 conference mark. By comparison, the team’s opponents brought an unconvincing 2-2 NESCAC record to Jackson Field. From this, it seemed that a win would not be outside of the realm of possibility for the hosting Redbirds. However, the Cardinals fell short of their goals and succumbed to a 2-1 defeat.
The Cardinals would be on the defensive for the better part of the game on Saturday. Hamilton bested Wes in creating first-half chances, firing off nine shots to Wesleyan’s two. Despite the relentless attack, Wesleyan held on for the full 45 without conceding. Veteran keeper Jess Tollman ’15 was a crucial part of the operation, stopping three shots during her time in net.
After keeping even with the Continentals in the first half, the Birds gave up the ship early in the second period of play. Just 10 minutes into the second, the Cardinals gave up their first goal of the match. The scoring opened in the 56th minute when a Hamilton forward turned on a pass from 10 yards out to find the back of the net.
Less than 10 minutes later, a Hamilton midfielder was able to break free from the right side after a missed tackle and find her teammate to put the Birds in a 2-0 hole with a bit less than a half-hour left to play.
Suddenly awakened by this offensive outpouring from its opponents, the Wesleyan offense livened up late in the second half. Improving on its shooting mark in the first half, the Cardinals’ strike force was able to put up nine shots. Striker Chrissy Gonzalez-Gandolfi ’17 was asking the most questions, putting up shots with three on target.
Hamilton responded to the extra pressure from Wesleyan with firepower of its own, rattling off 11 shots in the period. Wes keeper Rachel Hobert ’16 took over for Tollman in the second, valiantly putting away four saves from a venomous Hamilton counterattack.
A staunch effort from the Hamilton keeper held off the Wes attack for almost the full 90. After continually frustrating the home side for the better part of the game, Hamilton’s defense finally let up a bit. With just two seconds left in the game, Maddy Keane ’16 revved up the right side on a sluggish Hamilton defense and played a low cross into Ellie Dempsey ’18, who potted her first goal of the season. With her first career goal, Dempsey allowed the Cardinals to narrowly avoid a home shutout.
If anything, the goal is a strong indication of just how seriously the Cardinals take their NESCAC competition: up until the final moments, even when victory is out of reach, the Birds are still gunning for goal. Now looking to restart their winning ways again, the Cardinals travel up to Maine Saturday, Oct. 4 to challenge the Colby Camels. Both teams are currently winless in the NESCAC, so a victory for either side could prove crucial in building some momentum and competing for a postseason spot. Last beating Colby in 2011, the Cards will look to upend their northernmost rivals and get back on track in the chase for ’CAC glory.