Head coach Michelyne Pinard has her 2015 Williams women’s soccer squad focusing on the principle, “Earn everything, every minute of each day.”
The Ephs have responded bouncing back from a heartbreaking penalty-kick shootout defeat in last fall’s NCAA Championship match, posting a dozen wins without a loss, with just one scoreless tie. Much of the success during this season’s campaign is stemming from a pair Ephs’ juniors – the powerful scoring tandem of Kristi Kirshe and Audrey Thomas.
As incoming freshman, their official visit to BR-3 Williams College while still seniors in high school was a bit awkward, and even though they didn’t speak much at the time, both Audrey and Kristi had a feeling they would be spending a lot of time playing together.
The two quickly bonded over a surprise, and exceptionally difficult fitness test during their very first practice. Coach Pinard stresses the importance of the relationships, and her players getting to know each other. The two didn’t take much time getting comfortable as friends, and teammates. Coach Pinard speaks highly of her power duo, “It’s easy to think of them as so complementary as Thunder and Lightning…Kirshe’s strength and power and Audrey’s quickness….a fierce combination.”
For Kristi, after leading her Franklin High squad to their first Division 1 Massachusetts state title, and earning honors as the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year, she narrowed her school selection to the NESCAC institutions, but the move across the state to play at Williams was always her first choice.
Audrey’s choice to become an Eph took her across several time-zones. Also a Gatorade Player of the Year in her home state of Washington, as an Issaquah High School senior Audrey led the Eagles to the state 4A title game, and earned her second National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American honor. While exploring college options, Audrey considered UPenn and Emory before choosing to play at Williams, focusing on the school’s academic reputation giving her the best balance of truly being a student-athlete.
Coach Pinard first saw Kristi play during her high-school junior season at a small Thanksgiving tournament. After about 30 minutes of watching her team struggle to keep possession, Pinard started to leave when Kristi finally snagged the ball, and scored. After re-thinking her departure and deciding to stay, she saw Kristi score three goals in the next five minutes. “I decided at that point, she could be a great fit for us; how observant of me, right?” says Pinard of that first encounter.
Audrey was a ninth grader playing with an older team when Pinard found her, “she was only about 4’9” at the time, but she could fly!!!” as she described her future standout, “I loved her competitive energy from the first time I saw her. Watching her develop as a player throughout her High School career and using her speed to make opposing teams uncomfortable was exciting.”
As freshman, they were welcomed to the program by a small group of quiet seniors, but a loud, in-your-face and highly motivated junior class. The two became particularly close to a few of them quickly, and helped the pair settle in their new environment, preparing them for the next level. For Kristi, she had previously played with now senior captain Mia Mitsuyama, who was from a neighboring hometown. The two freshman made an impact right away, both drilling six goals with a pair of assists to total 14 points each, with Kristi having the edge in game-winners 3-2.
The two sophomores agreed to be roommates after that first season, and the friendship grew quickly with the two leaning on each other both on the field, and off. As Kristi put it, “I think our friendship has allowed us to maintain a healthy level of competition, while also being each other’s biggest supporters.”
Audrey agreed, adding “Kirshe is the first person to give me a high-five when I play well and also the first person to tell me to get my act together when I’m having a bad day.” Kristi continued, “That definitely goes both ways too. Some people are afraid to yell at me…she definitely is not.”
As juniors, the two are living in different buildings, and no longer taking classes in the same major. Audrey had thought that maybe they wouldn’t see each other all the time, “but we still spend an absurd amount of time together. Let’s hope that translates into a successful ending of the season.”
Coach Pinard speaks highly of her junior stars, with respect to their complementary relationship, and their team-player philosophy, “what makes them most special is their recognition that although they provide an incredible skill set to our team, they have teammates who are just as special in ways that make our team great. The amount of respect they have for everyone else on the team and what they bring is amazing. It would be really easy for them not to be humble and hard working, but they may be two of the most humble and hard working athletes I’ve ever coached.”
And so far, so good.
Just this past week, Kristi earned honors as the NESCAC Women’s Soccer Player of the Week.
With two road wins on the week, she netted both goals in the 2-0 win over BR-106 Skidmore, and then tallied the sole score in the 103rd minute of the Ephs’ 1-0 double-overtime win at BR-138 Wesleyan.
On the season, Kristi has scored nine goals and assisted on six more to total 24 points, ranking second in the NESCAC, right behind Audrey who has 26 points with 11 goals.
The Ephs’ will finish out their regular season schedule over the next week, putting their undefeated thirteen match run to the test with squaring off against NESCAC foes BR-141 Tufts and BR-75 Middlebury.