By Danny Priest
SPRINGFIELD – Rivalries are one of the best things about sports. On Monday evening at Brock-Affleck field, the Springfield College men’s soccer team played one of their big rivals when they hosted the Western New England Golden Bears.
The Western New England (9-5-2) roster was littered with players who had spent time in their collegiate career with the Pride. Some of the former members included the Bear’s top two scorers this season, Connor Prindle (17 points, seven goals, three assists) and Brendan Claflin (12 points, five goals, two assists) among others.
Springfield (11-3) came into the game having won five in a row. During that time, they had racked up 12 goals as a team and pitched two shutouts. On Monday evening the win streak continued as the Pride came from behind for a 2-1 over the Golden Bears.
Head coach Tommy Crabill liked the effort his team showed in the come from behind victory. “Really good team [Western New England], really well coached, we’re fortunate,” he said. “It’s a rivalry game and in some ways you want to be up for it, in other ways you want to treat it like any other match. I’m really happy for the team, really happy for them.”
The defining play of the game came in the 70th minute. Brad Deckel was meandering his way towards the net and he was dragged down by a Western New England defender, the official awarded a penalty kick to the Pride.
Springfield put their trust in the foot of senior senior center back Ian Zacharewicz. Zacharewicz, who had not scored a goal since his sophomore season in 2016-2017, delivered what proved to be the game winning goal for Springfield by cashing in on the penalty kick.
“I decided to take it and I looked at the keeper’s positioning, he went a little early, so I decided to put it on the opposite side,” Zacharewicz said of the goal.
With so many talented goal scorers on the roster, the team had to carfully consider who they put out there for the penalty kick. “We have a few PK takers and we had a debate on who should take it,” Zacharewicz said. “I’ve been doing pretty well with them all season, I hadn’t gotten a chance yet, but I felt confident.”
Prior to the Zacharewicz game winner, the Pride fell in an early hole. Western New England struck first on the Pride’s home field, and it was a trio of former Springfield players who combined for the opening goal. Charlie Argyle scored for the the Golden Bears off of assists from Prindle and Claflin.
The goal put Western New England ahead 1-0 and as the half progressed things got more chippy between the two teams. By the half, the Pride had mustered just one shot on goal and Western New England established a physical tone with 8 fouls.
At halftime, Crabill told his team that they had to stick to their game. “Our basic message to guys is keep being us. Don’t change, be who you are,” he said. “Our tactic doesn’t change all that much, sometimes our subbing rotation changs slightly, but our players know how to play their positions.”
The Pride did just that as they came out of the second half firing. Eventually, their efforts were rewarded. In the 58th minute the Western New England goalkeeper attempted to clear the ball out of his end.
Christian Schneider intercepted the ball and had a free path to the net for a 1 on 1 shot at the keeper. Schneider did not miss his opportunity, and he rocketed in a shot to the right side of the net to tie the game at one.
The goal was Schneider’s fifth of the season (tied with Brad Deckel for the most on the team) and moved him to 12 points for the year. More importantly, the goal gave the Pride some much needed momentum and it was roughly 12 minutes later they struck again with Zacharewicz.
Next up for Springfield is a big NEWMAC Conference matchup with WPI on Saturday afternoon. The Pride currently sit at number one in the NEWMAC Conference and the Engineers are behind them at second.
That game will take place on Saturday at noon on Brock-Affleck field as the Pride will look to extend their win streak to seven games and solidify their place a top the NEWMAC Conference.
Featured photo courtesy of Jack Margaros