By: Nico Fiscella
On a windy Saturday afternoon, the Springfield College Pride kicked off against the Coast Guard Bears. Springfield was riding a two-game win streak heading into the contest, and its 1-0 victory on Brock-Affleck Field allowed for the Pride to leapfrog Coast Guard in the NEWMAC standings.
With the fall leaves scattering the bright turf field, the 73-degree weather made a mid-October matchup feel like the season was just getting underway, yet both teams are a few games away from possible playoff appearances.
Just like the weather, Springfield jumped out to a hot start.
With not even a minute gone in the match, a re-directed pass found first-year Maitoe Suppasuesanguan at the top of the box, and with a blink of an eye, the ball scorched the air finding a new home in the back of the net. With 44 minutes of action still awaiting in the first half, Springfield grabbed an early 1-0 lead.
“It was definitely a confidence boost for us, but we know we have to keep the pressure on them. We can’t lay back just because we are up,” said junior goalie Clayton Knibbs.
Coast Guard continued the pressure, but a sliding snag by Knibbs after a well placed cross kept the Bears scoreless early.
After eight minutes of play, Coast Guard already accumulated three shots, while Springfield remained with their soul shot being the difference maker.
Coming into the matchup with similar records, both the Pride and the Bears were consistently on each other’s backs. A slight hesitation while holding the ball led to many transition scoring attempts, and the aggressive nature of Coast Guard was something the Pride knew they were up against before taking the field.
“We knew Coast Guard is always like that, and we kept it cool and did what we had to do,” said Knibbs.
With 13 minutes left in the half, Suppasuesanguan was swept off his feet in a crucial scoring opportunity for the Pride, and when no whistle was heard the Springfield faithful decided to voice their opinions.
“Protect your players!” shouted an angry member of the Springfield crowd.
With back-and-forth action in the midfield and no clock stoppages, it was not long after the countdown to halftime began. Heading into halftime, it was a great half for Springfield keeper Knibbs, who went into the half saving all three shots on goal.
Within the first minutes of the second half, it was Coast Guard this time attempting to score within the first couple of minutes of action.
Coast Guard striker Robbie Fugett was expecting a tie game after firing one off from his right foot, the ball instead found the hands of Knibbs again as an athletic save brought the crowd to its feet and kept the lead for Springfield.
While the second half found Springfield consistently with the ball on the other half, many transition attacks were dissolved before Springfield could find space for high pressure offense.
“RIP A SHOT SPRINGFIELD,” alerted the crowd as Springfield did not get a shot off until twenty minutes passed in the second half.
With eleven minutes remaining, a foul that was inches away from becoming a penalty kick placed Coast Guard in their best scoring opportunity of the match. The Bears attempted a shot, and the ball narrowly missed the top right of the goal leading to a goal kick for Springfield.
The Bears had one last opportunity with 30 seconds left in the game, as they fired off their seventh and final corner kick of the match.
With a pile of bodies in the box, it was Knibbs coming down with the ball and falling on his knees attempting to squeeze out a couple of extra seconds from the clock.
“It was unexplainable honestly […] we played defensively all game, it was great,” added Knibbs about the energy of the final minute of action.
Springfield improves to 8-4 on the season, while being 3-2 in conference matchups. As for Coast Guard, they fall to 2-3 in NEWMAC play and are now 8-4-1 with less than five games remaining in the regular season. The Pride return to action Wednesday night, as Wesleyan comes to town at 7 p.m.
Photo: Danielle Schmelling/The Student