By Kevin Saxe
SPRINGFIELD — As the temperature continues dropping in Springfield, the Springfield College women’s soccer team continues their end of the year hot streak with its third straight win after losing on senior day to MIT.
In Tuesday’s NEWMAC quarterfinal match, the No. 2 seed Pride defeated the No. 7 seeded Lyons of Wheaton College, 3-1, to advance to Thursday’s semifinal matchup against the No. 3 seed Emerson Lions.
Hearing PA announcers say, “Springfield College goal scored by #20 Kaleigh Dale”, is a common occurrence. However, a name that Pride fans may have heard almost as much, is Sara Swetland. With her assist on Amanda Wright’s goal on Tuesday night, Swetland set the all-time single season record for assists with 11. She credited her teammates in helping her break the record.
“I really enjoy looking for my teammates. They do a really good job finishing. I wouldn’t have all these assists without them. I really like looking for them and making those plays.”
Swetland has been a huge part of the Pride’s offense through this point, including Tuesday night, where some of her best assets in her game were on display. Head coach John Gibson knows Swetland is one of many talented players he has the opportunity to coach.
“Last year she missed a chunk of games in the middle of the season. So, we never really knew that she was a great player. We didn’t see what she was capable of because the season was interrupted by injury. Eleven assists is remarkable. She has a great touch and she holds the ball up so well.”
Coming into the game Springfield had some familiarity with the Lyons, as these teams met on October 24 in a regular season NEWMAC game. That game possessed a high tempo, and the Pride won, 3-2, in overtime.
Tuesday’s game started off at a much slower pace, as there was a mere two shots in the first 15 minutes of the game. Dale would break the scoreless deadlock 16:10 into the first half.
She gained possession around midfield and, like so many times this year, created her own chance with her elusiveness before firing it home past Wheaton goalie, Alexa Barbagallo
The Pride would maintain pressure in the first half, but only outshot the Lyons 8-3 overall and 3-1 in shots on goal in the opening half. Not satisfied with the 1-0 lead at half, Gibson was happier with the way his team came out in the second.
“I thought the second half was excellent. The first half we had a lot of possession, we moved the ball nicely, but we didn’t really get in behind enough. I didn’t think we did enough with the possession. We got more support for Sara when she had the ball, she holds it up so well.”
In the second half, the Pride seemed to find their footing a bit more as they dominated possession for the most part. They outshot the Lyons 18-4 in the second half and created numerous quality chances.
Springfield would breakthrough just over 12 minutes into the second half as Swetland passed to Wright at the top of the box. Wright would pick the top right corner of the net to double her team’s lead, 2-0.
After the Lyons got one back in the 78th minute off the foot of Jaime Ratteni, Dale answered back a minute later with her second goal of the game. Off a feed from Sydney Wine, Dale fired a shot past Barbagallo to restore Springfield’s at two.
The Pride would hold on from there to secure their place in the NEWMAC semifinals.
Jackie Davis got the start in the net and made three saves, while Barbagallo ended the night with six saves.
Springfield hosts the NEWMAC semifinals on Thursday at 7 p.m. when they face the No. 3 seeded Emerson Lions. The Pride beat the Lions in the regular season, 2-1, on the road. They were led by goals from Amanda Wright and Sara Swetland and six saves from goalie Izzy Inglese. The winner of this semifinal will move onto Saturday’s NEWMAC title game at the highest remaining seed.
Featured photo courtesy of Jack Margaros