October 24, 2013
Two weeks ago, the Hamilton women’s soccer team found itself at a crossroads, about to embark on a difficult three-game set against highly-ranked NESCAC opponents. And yet, after dropping all of those games despite arguably outperforming the opposition in all three, the Continentals rebounded with a scoreless draw against Colby and a resounding 4-0 win over Utica, once again leaving themselves at a crossroads. For Hamilton to get over the hump, the rest of their season is all about finishing out each remaining game strong.
In 0-2 and 1-3 losses to Amherst and Bowdoin, respectively, the Continentals actually outshot both teams. Hamilton looked especially strong against Bowdoin, scoring nine goals in the first half compared to the Polar Bears’ three, before three goals in the final 20 minutes sunk the Conts. Those games were emblematic of the missed opportunities this year—despite ranking fourth in the NESCAC with 198 shots on goal, Hamilton has only scored five times in conference competition, tied for the second-lowest output.
Nevertheless, the Continentals still find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt, currently sitting seventh. Moreover, with positive results in the past two games, the payoff is starting to arrive for the team.
“I thought we generated good chances, but it’s just a matter of finishing them off,” said Head Coach Colette Gilligan. “We’re getting closer, and the touch was there in our most recent win [over Utica]. I think the most important thing is that we know we can compete with these teams.”
Indeed, that seems to be the takeaway message from the discouraging three-game losing streak. On one hand, the Continentals missed a golden opportunity to climb their way up the NESCAC standings, as they can finish no higher than seventh. However, the past two games have reaffirmed that the team is better than that placement, and is fully capable of pulling off an upset in the postseason should they reach the eight-team tournament.
Though she has yet to score this season, sophomore Hannah Withiam has supplemented the offensive attack with stability in the midfield. Fifth on the team with 22 shots and fourth with five shots on goal, Withiam is similarly faithful that the tangible results will come eventually.
“We’ve learned that having more possession of the ball and taking more shots than the other team will not always win us games,” says Withiam, “We have to push each other to finish the chances we have and put teams away early on in games. That mindset is crucial going into our last three regular season games.”
Before they can prove themselves, however, the Continentals must first lock up a playoff spot. Hamilton sits atop a five-team race for the final two playoff spots, one point ahead of Connecticut College and Colby, two points ahead of Bates and three points ahead of Wesleyan. With two NESCAC games remaining against Tufts and Williams, Coach Gilligan knows her team is facing crunch-time, but also has the ability to pull through.
“Our last two conference games are our most important games of the season,” she said. “I know we’re certainly capable of winning both if we execute like we’re capable of doing. Hopefully we can get into the postseason and make up for some missed opportunities there.”
Withiam echoed her coach’s comments saying, “At this point, there is no use in looking backward and dwelling on what we could have done better. All we can do is stay positive, focus on our own team, and plan for the next game on our schedule.”
Following the 4-0 win against Utica last Sunday, the Conts are hopeful to improve their standings in their final home game of the season against Tufts this Saturday at 12 p.m. Looking toward these games, Withiam comments, “I have high hopes for this team and I believe we will finish strong because we have the ability to win any time we step on the field, no matter the opponent!”