By Kevin Saxe
SPRINGFIELD — As the wind howled and the wind chill was right around freezing, the Springfield College women’s soccer team beat the visiting Wheaton Lyon 3-2 in overtime, Wednesday night at Brock Affleck Field.
For the Pride, the win put them firmly into second place in the NEWMAC standings with one game remaining. Sitting at 7-2 (21 Points) in the NEWMAC, they will need just a draw or an Emerson loss to secure the second spot in the NEWMAC. With a change to the conference tournament, head coach John Gibson explained the importance of the finishing second as opposed to third and how it differs from prior years.
“Instead of being a Tuesday first round game, followed by a semifinal and final, on Saturday and Sunday at the site of whoever won the regular season, it’s now a Tuesday first round game, and Thursday two semifinals at the highest seed, and Saturday the finals at the highest remaining seed. In the previous format being second or third didn’t really matter because you played each other in a neutral site.”
Coming off a senior day loss to MIT, the Pride offense was all over the Lyons early and often in the first half. There was just one problem, an inability to finish. The Pride outshot the Lyons 17-4 in the first half, with just four shots coming on goal.
Springfield finally broke through before the half ended thanks to a goal from graduate student Kellie Gambell. After Rachel Feliu beat her defender down the left side she crossed the ball into the box to Kaleigh Dale. Dale’s shot was blocked but Gambell was there to put the rebound home for her second goal of the season.
That would be all the scoring for either team in the first half. Although the result was positive, Gibson pointed out some things the team can improve on moving forward.
“We were just discussing in the locker room, ‘you’ve got to put chances away and you’ve got to defend.’ Otherwise we’ll keep teams we’ve been outplaying in games. I think it maybe a concentration thing.”
Coming into the game, both the Pride and the Lyons had high powered offenses and both offenses showed through in a seven-minute span in the second half. The Lyons evened the game off a pass from Amanda Dunton that Kaylee Sye finished.
Just over three minutes later, off a bad clearance from Lyons goalie Alexa Barbagallo, Dale controlled the ball and split two defenders before finishing a chance from in close on Barbagallo. However, the Lyons were not done as four minutes later they responded off a corner on a goal by Chloe Troy and the game was tied again, 2-2.
Headed into overtime, the Pride dug deep to pull out an important conference win. Four and a half minutes into the first overtime period Sara Swetland would force a turnover right around midfield.
She passed to Dale, who found a wide-open Amanda Wright coming down the middle of the field. Wright took the pass and avoided Barbagallo before finishing for her seventh goal of the season and her first goal in the team’s last eight games. After the game Wright was understandably excited to score the winner.
“It was exciting finally scoring after a while. It took a lot of work throughout the game and the team worked hard. We worked as a team, as a unit today and we pushed through and got the win.”
With the win giving them a firm grasp on second place, Gibson knows the win was big considering how tight the NEWMAC is and the tough upcoming game at WPI.
“If we had fallen in the nightmare scenario and lost today, as we could’ve when the game went to overtime. We have to go to WPI on Saturday which is a very hard place to play and they just tied MIT. It’ll be pouring rain and howling gale. Conceivably we could’ve lost both games and been fifth. This more or less locks up second place in the conference. The conference is incredibly tight other than MIT.”
Despite dominating in shots 33-9, the Pride only had a 10-6 advantage in shots on goal. For the Lyons Barbagallo made seven saves in the loss, while for the Pride Jackie Davis made four saves.
Next up for the Pride, they will travel to Worcester on Saturday at 5 p.m. to take on WPI, in a game where a draw or better guarantees them the second spot in the NEWMAC regardless of any other result.
Featured photo courtesy of Springfield College Athletics