October 3, 2013
If there is a Hamilton varsity team that has shown the tenacity needed to dominate the NESCAC this season, it is the women’s soccer team. How far the Continentals climb will depend on a brutal upcoming stretch, but at 3-1-2 (1-1-2 NESCAC), they have largely held their own against equal and inferior opponents, earning points in all games except one. Over Fallcoming weekend, the women’s soccer team finished off its opening stretch with a 0-0 draw against Wesleyan University.
The tie highlighted what has been a remarkable defensive stretch for the Continentals. Since losing 2-0 to Trinity on Sept. 7, Hamilton has conceded just four goals in four games. Keeper Liza Gergenti ’14, currently on a 178-minute shutout streak, attributes the recent stinginess to a defense that is finding some cohesion after a few early-season bumps.
“Well I know every team has some off games, and for us especially we had a bit of a tough stint in the beginning of the season,” admitted Gergenti. “But when our defense is on, we are on!” Gergenti is proud of the way the defense has been working to together to form a cohesive unit and to communicate throughout the game. She added, “I think they work great together covering each other’s backs if one person makes a run up the field or gets beat by an offensive player and I feel confident with them in front of me. Hopefully they feel confident with me in the goal backing them up as well.”
Despite not scoring against Wesleyan, the Continental offense has buttressed the strong defensive effort since the Trinity loss, scoring seven times in the three games before last weekend. In particular, midfielder Becca Rees ’16 has stepped up her production this season, notching six points and a team-leading 17 shots on goal. Rees credited her stat sheet stuffing to increased freedom from schematic changes.
“My position was switched from the center to a wing midfielder, so I have more freedom to make runs and get involved in the offensive third than I used to,” explained Rees. “We changed up our formation from last year as well, emphasizing the need to score so I think that has contributed to our success on offense.”
The Continentals face their toughest stretch of the season over the next three games, squaring off at home against Amherst this Saturday, followed by back-to-back road games the following weekend versus Bowdoin and Middlebury. All three teams currently sit four points or fewer ahead of the Continentals in the NESCAC standings.
But the team is playing well, and though Hamilton is technically seventh in the conference standings, they have played fewer games than all but Connecticut College. In such a tightly-packed conference, a good fortnight could vault the Continentals as high as second, whereas a rough one will leave the team teetering on the edge of the playoff periphery.
Despite this pressure, Gergenti is confident that she and her teammates are ready for these season-defining games. “We have a long week of practice ahead of us to prepare for Amherst and I feel good about where we are,” she said. “We’ve out-shot our opponents recently and have had great attempts that just shy over the crossbar or go wide. So we just need to work on finishing those balls and then honestly I can’t see us losing. We want it too much and are going to work way too hard to come out of these three weeks without positive results.”
This Saturday’s home game against Amherst is sure to be an exciting one. The Lord Jeffs, currently ranked 2-1-2 in conference, will no doubt put up a tough fight. However, based on the strong communication skills and determination exhibited by the women’s soccer team thus far, the Conts are sure to keep up the intensity they have been building upon since the beginning of the season.