The women’s soccer team played its final non-conference game of the season last night against Elms College on Leary Field, which ended in a nil-nil outcome. The Birds are now 1-8-2 overall and 0-5-1 in conference. Goalkeeper Jess Tollman ’15 produced her first shutout of the season and the ninth of her career. This is the type of performance that will be needed to inspire a positive result going into a Little Three matchup this weekend with the Amherst Lord Jeffs on Homecoming Weekend.
“We came out strong and were moving as a unit really well,” Tollman commented. “We had good off-ball movement, which was a goal that we had. We had good combos with the midfield and good chances on the crosses, but unfortunately we weren’t able to capitalize on them. It was a good performance going into the game against Amherst.”
Any time a team travels on the road during the week, a draw is a respectable outcome. However, the Cardinals must have had higher expectations going into the contest, as they beat the Blazers 4-1 in each of the past two seasons. Wesleyan has produced a massively disproportionate 68-15 difference in total shots in its three meetings with Elms.
The Birds outshut Elms 16-4 throughout the evening, with the Blazers unable to get a shot until the second half. The Cardinals also had a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks earned.
“We didn’t let up a ton of scoring opportunities,” Tollman said. “We grounded up the defense from the box. They had a couple of decent of chances. The couple of times that I was called upon, it was important for me to produce. I wanted to make the right decisions and, when the time came, look for that opportunity to get down and steal the ball on a breakaway.”
Tollman only had to make two saves in the game, including one where she dove on the ground to her right, stopping a shot that would have found the bottom-left corner of the net. The opposing keeper stopped all five of the Wesleyan shots, which were on target, including two from midfielder Madeline Keane ’16 and one each from three sophomores: Jenny Cascino, Chrissy Gonzalez, and Sarah Sylla.
The Cardinals’ best chance of the game came when Cascino found the ball in the box off a corner kick, but a diving save from the Blazers’ keeper stopped her shot from finding the back of the net.
“We had a lot of corner kicks and a bunch of players running into the box,” Tollman said. “It’s hard for me to see, being so far back, but we had one opportunity where one of my teammates shot the ball from close range and the keeper deflected the attempt. There was another good chance where the defense was able to get it away and clear, but most of our chances came on corners and crosses.”
The team will need to work on its discipline in its remaining NESCAC games, as they almost had double the amount of fouls Elms did: 11-6. The Birds were also called offsides eight times, which hindered a few valuable scoring opportunities.
With games remaining against Amherst, Trinity, Middlebury, and Conn College, the playoffs are not out of the question for the Cardinals if they are able to spark some more consistent play for a full 90 minutes.
“I think we’re trying to focus on off-ball movement, which I mentioned, and looking to get the ball to the midfield,” Tollman said. “If we have space, we want to turn and take the space. If not, we’re looking to play it back and get dynamic balls into the box. We want to take the space when we have it, and make more layers in the box so that we have better opportunities.”
Wesleyan currently sits 11th in the standings, with just one point coming from its 1-1 tie in Medford, Mass. last month against Tufts. Trinity and Tufts are currently tied for that coveted eighth and final playoff spot with seven points each. With a win counting as 3 points, the Cardinals still have the possibility of earning 12 more points. Excluding the top four teams, there are no squads that have more than 10 points, so solid play could lead to clinching a postseason spot for the Cards.
With that being said, the team still needs to take a one-game-at-a-time approach, as Amherst will be a tough game. The Lord Jeffs are leading the conference with 18 points, are 6-1 in NESCAC play, and are 10-2 overall. Their only loss of the season came on the road in Maine, losing 1-0 to the Bowdoin Polar Bears. Last year’s matchup between Wesleyan and Amherst ended in a 0-0 draw in Massachusetts, and the last time the Cardinals were victorious over the Lord Jeffs was in 1993 via a 1-0 decision. The game will take place on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 2:30 p.m. on Jackson Field.
“We’ve had some frustration with the season, but one thing that we’re doing is staying competitive and hungry going into every game,” Tollman said. “Each team is good and every game is close. The big thing for us is making the right decisions and capitalizing on those opportunities that we have. On defense, we need to keep our composure and limit our mistakes. We need to do the little things right, be strong in the midfield, and score goals.”