By Hayden Choate
Down 2-0 to Wheaton entering the third round of penalty kicks in a 1-1 tie in the NEWMAC women’s soccer semifinal, rather than panic, Springfield goalkeeper Amelia Harper was confident their team would still prevail.
“The goalkeeper had just gone up to the ref after we missed our second shot and said ‘do we win?’ I said ‘no, I can make the next three saves’, so I had to make the next three saves,” Harper said.
Sadie Recht missed the net to begin the third round before Kaleigh Dale scored to put the Pride on the board in the penalty kicks.
In the fourth round, facing Nicolette Scinicariello, Harper made a ridiculous diving deflection save to their right redirecting the ball away from twine upwards to hit the post coming back out to Scinicariello.
Sophomore Jen Walker tied the penalty kick stage at 2 when she scored in the fourth round. Harper then had to face Wheaton’s only scorer of the game, Chloe Troy.
“I got to connect, I got to get to a side and stick with that, that’s the biggest thing on PKs is it’s 90% in the shooter’s favor and we got to try and make that more in our odds,” Harper said.
Harper robbed Troy with another diving save to the right. Although the first one missed, Harper kept their word they would make three stops.
Senior Maddy Bonavita on the second shot of the fifth round scored to send Springfield to the NEWMAC Championship, completing the comeback in the penalty kick stage.
“We showed a lot of resilience, we hung in there we didn’t get down, I’m very proud,” Springfield College women’s soccer coach John Gibson said. “When they went up to take their third one, (I was thinking) miss miss miss, fortunately she blasted it over the bar and then Amelia came up with two amazing saves. It was a great game.”
The game began as a scoreless battle by both teams through 80 minutes of play. It wasn’t until 5:59 left in the second half the roaring crowd of both Springfield and Wheaton fans saw the first goal of the game.
Wheaton goalkeeper Gabby Marcus aggressively came out of the box to play a ball to hear defender. A bad turnover later and the ball ended up on the foot of the one player who had scored three goals on Wheaton earlier in the season.
Kaleigh Dale looked up for a fraction of a second before sending a rocket shot that hit the back of the net before a retreating Marcus could get back into her net.
It was Dale’s second straight goal of the NEWMAC tournament, and Springfield had to kill less than six minutes to get their second straight 1-0 victory. However, Wheaton would not go out without a fight.
With the scoreboard reading 1:40 of play left in the second half, Claire Donfield fired a wicked cross that Chloe Troy tapped into the left side of the net with her head, shocking the crowd and tying the game at one.
“Kaleigh scores the goal of the century, to be 40 yards out, take one touch then hit the target is amazing what a player she is,” Gibson said. “We didn’t get pressure on the ball, good cross in, we didn’t challenge their best player glancing header it was a good goal.”
Springfield will play MIT for the NEWMAC Championship on Saturday at MIT. This is the third time they have faced off against each other in the final game since 2017.
MIT eliminated Springfield in the NEWMAC semi finals two years ago.
“There’s just 11 of them, 11 of us we’ll be up for it, we’ll fight and we’ll see what happens,” Gibson said.
Springfield last won the NEWMAC title in 2015.
“Well, I said in the dressing room before we started the playoffs, we’ve won this tournament from the 1 seed, from the 2 seed from the 3 seed from the 4 seed, now we’re the 6th seed let’s see if we can win it from there and on Tuesday, they battled the first half here, I thought Wheaton had the better of it, second half I thought we were better. It was a great battle.”
The Pride beat Clark University 1-0 on the road on Tuesday to advance. Springfield went 2-5-2 in the last seven games of the season placing them as the 6th seed in the tournament.
Harper knew coming into the playoffs, their team was ready to keep playing.
“It feels so good. We were the underdogs for sure this entire tournament,” Harper said. There’s not a better feeling than proving everyone wrong and we deserve to be here, we deserve to play and we showed everyone that today, so feel pretty good about that.”