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Women's Semifinal 2 Preview

Other Previews:  Women's Semifinal 1 Men's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2

By D3soccer.com contributor

NCAA Division III Women's Soccer - National Semifinal 2

Friday, November 30 — 7:45 pm ET

No. 4  Williams (17-1-4)

vs.

No. 8  Chris. Newport (21-1-0)

How they reached the Final Four

   Berth 1st / 2nd Rounds Sectional
Williams Pool C at-large W2-0 Univ. of New Eng. (H)
W2-1 (2ot) Stevens (H)
T0-0 (2ot) TCNJ (N)
T0-0 (2ot) Wm. Smith (A)
Chris. Newport CAC AQ W10-1 Staten Island (H)
W2-0 Scranton (H)
W2-1 Hope (H)
W1-0 Lynchburg (H)

2018 Statistical Overview

   Record (Pct.) GSA : GAA (Diff.) Avg. OWP SoS vs. Top 25 Last Ten
Williams 17-1-4 (.864) 1.52 : 0.48 (+1.04) .691 .665 2-1-4 7-1-2
Chris. Newport 21-1-0 (.955) 3.44 : 0.54 (+2.90) .626 .579 3-1-0 10-0-0

Williams Season Review

If you looked solely at the stat sheet this season, you might think that Williams has suffered through a rebuilding year. Coming off National Championships in 2015 and 2017, the defending champs have lost many of the big-time players who brought those titles home. The Ephs have only scored 35 goals on the season for a goals-per-game average of 1.59, good for 232nd in the country. That’s not a misprint - they are ranked 232nd in the nation in scoring offense. They’ve also given up 11 goals on the season, and while that’s not a number to be ashamed of, it’s only good for a ranking of 21st in the nation. Not numbers indicative of one of the top teams in the country. But this is no rebuilding project. These are the defending champions and this team is not willing to give that title up without a fight. This team has scrapped and fought through this season and without putting up big numbers, have achieved a 17-1-4 record and are the only team from last season’s Final Four to return. They are survivors.

The Ephs didn’t win their conference championship this year, falling to Middlebury (another Final Four participant) 1-0 for their first loss of the season, thus earning a Pool-C at-large bid to the national tournament. They hosted the first weekend, beating New England 2-0 on Saturday and Stevens 2-1 Sunday on two late goals. They then traveled to Geneva, NY, for the Northeast Sectional on a wintry upstate New York weekend and snuck by on two draws, advancing on penalty kicks on back-to-back days. On Saturday, they battled TCNJ to a scoreless draw, despite being outshot 12-7 (3-2 SOG) and trailing in corner kicks 4-0. In the shootout, the Eph’s prevailed 4-3 when the last TCNJ player hit the left post with her attempt. Sunday, the Eph’s fell behind early in the contest when William Smith scored off a free kick in the 6th minute to go up 1-0. That lead didn’t last long, though, as freshman Liz Girvan netted the equalizer less than 30 seconds later. The teams then battled in the snow for the remainder of regulation and two overtime periods with no further scoring, and the Ephs headed to penalties for the second time in as many days. Senior goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill was the difference-maker in the penalty shootout, stopping four of the Heron’s five penalties to advance 2-1 and enabling the Ephs to head back to their second straight National Semifinal and fourth in five years. They are survivors.

First Team All-Conference sophomore Sydney Jones leads the team in goals with 10. Those making things tic around her this year have included freshman Liz Girvan who has 4 assists to her name and All-Conference midfielder Sarah Scire. The Ephs’ defensive unit is anchored by All-Conference defenders Sarah Kelly and Liz Webber. But, the heartbeat of this Williams side can be found in between the pipes. All-NESCAC First-Team selection Barnhill, who has started in purple and yellow for the past three seasons, has allowed 10 goals on the year and has a save percentage of 0.880. She played a significant part in last year’s run to the championship, being named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. She will be a key element again if the Ephs hope to go the distance in 2018.

Williams began the season at No. 1 of our Top 25 poll and slipped to No. 3 after a couple of ties and ended the regular season at No. 4 after their conference championship loss to Middlebury. Williams finished the regular season at 14-0-2 before picking up three wins, a loss, and two ties in the postseason. Williams had regular season quality wins over Middlebury (who has reached as high as No. 3 in our poll), Amherst (reached as high as No. 14), Tufts (as high as No. 21), MIT (as high as No. 21), and Farmingdale State. The Ephs have made 20 NCAA Tournaments, with 11 trips to the Sweet 16, eight trips to the Elite 8, five Final Four appearances, three Finals appearances, and two National Championships (2015, 2017).

Chris. Newport Season Review

Christopher Newport entered the tournament at No. 8 in our poll with a 21-1-0 record and as champion of the Capital Athletic Conference. The Captains hosted the first and second round games of the NCAA Tournament, first lambasting Staten Island 10-1 in the opening round before knocking Scranton out of the competition with a 2-0 victory. The Captains also hosted the East Sectional featuring Messiah, Lynchburg, and Hope on a rain-soaked Captains’ Field in Newport News, VA. The Captains took care of Hope 2-1 on Friday evening, with freshman Abby Harrigan scoring her first collegiate goal and sophomore Riley Cook scoring the game winner in the victory. The Captains then faced Lynchburg Saturday evening and nearly followed our “Why they will advance to the Final Four” from our sectional preview to a “T”, as they played the Hornets in a closely contested defensive battle before senior Gabby Gillis found sophomore Riley Cook in the front of the goal where the sure-footed sophomore put the ball in the back of the net for the 1-0 win. It was only fitting that these two hooked up for the game-winning score, as they have been magic all season. It was Cook’s 12th game-winning goal this season, the 11th straight game she has scored a goal, and the 16th straight game where she has registered a point.

The Captains are a team with a balanced attack, ranking in the top 15 in the nation in scoring offense (3.65 goals-per-game) and in the top 30 for defense (0.55 goals-against average). The Captain defense is headed up by a trio of first team All-CAC defenders - junior Keiley McCarthy, sophomore Lulu Manley, and sophomore keeper Haley Eiser, who has 0.61 goals against average and a 0.855 save percentage. This excellent defensive unit has only allowed 12 goals this season and an average of 7.3 shots per game.

While the Captain defense is exceptional, their offense is virtually unstoppable. The majority of the scoring is completed by Cook (25g, 6a) and Gillis (15g, 11a), but don’t think that they are the only ones who can produce, as 21 players have recorded points this season and six of those are in double digits. Freshman Kristina Toms has especially come on strong in the latter-half of the season, with 11 goals in the last 11 games. This offense has scored multiple goals in every game but two and has not been shutout this season.

Christopher Newport began the season in the tenth position in our initial Top 25 poll, moved as low as No. 15, and currently sit at their highest spot of the season, No. 8. The lone blemish on their 21-1 record is an early season 2-1 loss to Lynchburg, marking the second time in two seasons that they had fallen to the Hornets by that scoreline before exacting revenge last weekend. The Captains are currently riding a 14-game win streak. The Captains had an early season win against then No. 9 ranked Wisconsin-La Crosse, a come-from-behind 2-1 neutral field victory. This is the Captains’ eleventh trip to the NCAA Tournament and the first time advancing to the Final Four. The furthest they had reached in the national tournament prior to this year was the sectional championship in Wheaton, IL, in 2004, where they were eliminated in the sectional final by Wheaton 4-0.

Head Coaches

Williams

Michelyne Pinard, 17th year (2002-2018), 256-46-34 (.813)

NCAA's (15 of 17 yrs.): 35-10-3 (.760) | 6th Final Four | Champion ('15, '17), Runner-up ('14), Final Four ('08), Elite 8 ('10,'11,'16), Sweet 16 ('07,'09,'13)

Head Coach Michelyne Pinard is in her 17th season at Williams and has amassed a 234-45-33 record at her post while taking the Ephs to the NCAA Tournament in 15 of her 17 seasons. This season marks her fifth, and fourth in the last five years, trip to the Final Four. In 2002, Coach Pinard took over a team that had made the NCAA tournament in seven of the first nine years of eligibility. Continuing that success initially eluded Pinard as she only qualified for one tournament in her first five seasons. But starting in 2007, Pinard's squads have not only made the tournament every year, but have advanced to the Sweet 16 or beyond in all but one season. Under her leadership the Eph’s have been NESCAC Champions in 2004, 2007-2010, 2012, 2015 and 2017. Williams was national runner-up in 2014 and national champion in 2015 and again last year. She is the winningest head coach in program history and her career winning percentage ranks fourth among active coaches in Division III women's soccer. She has been named NESCAC Coach of the Year three times and is the only repeat honoree as D3soccer.com’s Women’s Coach of the year, following both national championship seasons.

Chris. Newport

Dan Weiler, 6th year (2013-2018), 97-18-9 (.819) [career w/ 2 women's teams: 241-76-33 (.736)]

NCAA's (5 of 6 yrs.): 8-4-1 (.654) | 1st Final Four |

The sixth coach in Christopher Newport women’s soccer history, Dan Weiler is in his sixth season as head coach of the Captains heading to Greensboro with a 97-18-9 (0.819) record while in Newport News. He is now the winningest coach in the program’s history. Compared to the veterans that occupy this sectional, Dan’s numbers may seem like he’s some kind of newbie, but that’s not the case, as he previously spent eleven seasons heading up the Concordia-Moorhead Cobbers. His combined 17-year winning percentage places him in the top 25 of women’s D3 soccer coaches. Coach Weiler has taken his Captains' teams to the NCAA Tournament in five of his six seasons, with this being his first Sweet 16 and now first National Semifinal. During his career he has been honored as Regional Coach of the Year twice and seven times Conference Coach of the Year (MIAC 4 times, CAC in ’13, ’16 and ’17)

Seniors' 4-year Record (through Nov. 18)

   Overall (Pct.) NCAA Appearances Record Advancement
Williams 78-4-9 (.907) '15 '16 '17 '18 16-1-3 Elite 8: '16; Final Four: '18;
Champion: '15, '17
Chris. Newport 71-10-3 (.863)   '16 '17 '18 6-2-1 Final Four: '18

Players to Watch

Williams: #1 GK Olivia Barnhill (Sr.) – 0.45 GAA, 0.880 SvPct (NESCAC 1st Team, All Region 2nd Team) | #18 F Sydney Jones (So.) – 10g, 2a 8gwg (NESCAC 1st Team, All Region 1st Team) | #2 D Sarah Kelly (Jr.) – 2a (NESCAC 1st Team, All Region 1st Team) | #11 MF Sarah Scire (Jr.) – 4g, 2a, 2gwg (NESCAC 2nd Team | #4 D Liz Webber – 1g (NESCAC 2nd Team)

Chris. Newport: #25 M Gabby Gillis (Sr.) – 15g, 11a, 3gwg (CAC POY, All Region 1st Team) | #19 F Riley Cook (So.) – 23g, 6a, 12gwg (CAC 1st Team, All Region 1st Team) | #1 M Maxine Borris (So.) – 1g, 13a, 1gwg (CAC 1st Team) | #5 D Keily McCarthy (Jr.) – 1g, 2a (CAC 1st Team, All Region 2nd Team) | #35 D Lulu Manley (So.) – 1g, 1a (CAC 1st Team) | #00 GK Haley Eiser (So.) – 0.61 GAA, 0.855 SvPct (CAC 1st Team, All Region 3rd Team)

Tournament Re-Matches

Given the realities of DIII and geography, conference affiliations aside, there have been no regular season matches between the four women’s semifinalists. Further there is only a single, albeit penultimate, NCAA tournament game between any of these teams, the 2015 National Championship match where the Ephs celebrated their program’s first title, a 1-0 victory over the Bears.

Should the two NESCAC sides both reach the Final they, naturally, share a lengthy history having battled on the pitch at least once annually since 1978 with the Ephs holding 28-18-7 bragging rights. For the seniors, this would be the rubber match as they stand 3-3-0 with the last four finishing at 1-0, two each way

Analysis

This semifinal matchup features two teams with contrasting styles - Williams is a possession-oriented squad that plays tough, physical defense in close contests, while Christopher Newport relies more on a high-powered, counter-attacking, quick-strike offense that wears opponents down with wave after wave of attacks. It will be interesting to see which style wins out Friday evening. Williams’ offense has been averaging a very modest 1.59 goals per game, while the high-wire act in Newport News has been putting in almost 2 more per game at 3.45. But the Captains have not been facing defenses quite like the Ephs’. Williams plays in the highly competitive NESCAC, which is one of the toughest conferences in the nation. The Ephs’ back three have shut down some very good scoring specialists, but to be fair, they have not faced a duo the likes of Gillis and Cook, who have teamed up for 97 points this season. The Captains will rely on their more-than-capable defense (No. 29 in the nation at 0.543 goals-per-game allowed) to thwart the Ephs’ modest attack and rely on Gillis and Cook to counter-attack and eventually sneak one through. The Ephs’ will attempt to play their game, possessing the ball and keeping it out of the hands of CNU’s dynamic duo until the Captains eventually tire and leave a flank exposed, which the Ephs’ hope to take advantage of and put one in the net.

Williams has been living dangerously in the playoffs, especially last weekend when they advanced on penalty kicks two days in a row - not a recipe one wants to follow for continued success. They made it through the Sectional Weekend scoring only one goal (to be fair allowing only one). Again, a risky way to survive in the National Tournament. They also may face another obstacle in that leading scorer and All-NESCAC First-Teamer Sydney Jones was injured in Saturday’s game against TCNJ and did not play in Sunday’s draw with William Smith. Her status for the semifinal game is unknown. Also, Coach Pinard only used fifteen field players in Sunday’s game against the Heron’s, quite a bit less than the typical talent-laden Ephs are accustomed. Fatigue may factor in for the Ephs, if they continue with limited substitutions. In both games last weekend, the Ephs were outshot and, for stretches of both games, outplayed by their opponents. But, as mentioned above, this team is a group of fighters and survivors who have pulled together to do whatever it takes to move on.

Christopher Newport has also battled and done what it takes to move on. While not involved in a ton of close games throughout the season (prior to last weekend, they had out-scored opponents 76-12), they did weather a couple of close games in the sectional weekend. They battled a feisty Hope team and protected a 2-1 lead, then battled a Lynchburg team for most of regulation before getting a goal from Cook in the waning minutes to win a tight 1-0 game. Like Williams, Christopher Newport was outshot by their opponent but able to fend off all attacks and survive, despite being outplayed at times.

This game will come down to which team is able to impose their will on the other. Williams has a rich tradition and “big game” experience with players who are familiar with the fanfare and festivities of Championship Weekend, and even with the playing surface at UNC-Greensboro Stadium, having just won a national championship on this very pitch a season ago. But, is this the same team that won two National Championships in the last three seasons? Statistically? No. Depth-wise? No. Heart and grit-wise? We’ll have to wait and see.

Can Christopher Newport ride their high-flying, opportunistic offense past the Ephs and into the finals? They’ve proven themselves time and time again this season with fast, attacking players, and we’re not just talking Cook and Gillis. The Captains have a whole contingent of speedsters that bring the ball forward at a blistering pace and find themselves in behind the defense in a flash. The Captains will have to maintain their energy and pace despite what the Ephs’ defense throws at them. Officiating may play a part in this outcome, also, depending on how much the center official “lets them play”. A more physical game favors the Ephs style, and if the play gets rough, the Captains attack may get bogged down. But if the game is whistled closely and physical play discouraged, the field may tip in favor of the Captains. If their offense is allowed to roam the field at will, this Cinderella may have the magic to keep on dancing for one more night.

 

Other Previews:  Women's Semifinal 1 Men's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2

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