By Garrett Cote
With the game knotted up at one apiece and time ticking under 30 minutes to go, Springfield College and Western New England were at a stand still, each side searching for a spark.
As the Pride have done for the last several years, they once again leaned on Kaleigh Dale for that spark. The senior worked a give-and-go with junior Karly Suppicich at the top of the box, lost a Golden Bear defender with a dazzling touch and delivered a low left-footed boot by the dive of WNE goalie Molly McLaughlin giving Springfield a 2-1 advantage they would not give up.
The Dale score proved to be the game-winner, securing Pride head coach Kristin Cannon her first home victory under the lights on Brock-Affleck Field.
“I feel really great for the team,” Cannon said. “We’ve been working really hard this preseason. They’ve had to take to a new coach, I’ve been trying to teach them a new system and different things. They came out and executed the game plan tonight, so I couldn’t be more proud of them tonight.”
One minute prior to the Dale dagger, sophomore keeper Taryn Ryan made an incredible diving save to keep the game tied – one of her many remarkable efforts in the box for the Pride. The ball was cleared away after Ryan’s stop, which set up the Dale-Suppicich combination.
Despite standing at just five-foot-five, Ryan’s aggressive approach made her appear much bigger as she shut down five of the six shots that came her way in the win.
“Honestly I was just staying high and made sure I was communicating at all times,” Ryan said. “Even if the ball was in the other half of the field, I kept talking to my back line and made sure we were connected and in the right positions to make plays. I just try to be a presence. As long as I have a big presence and play with confidence, I have no problem covering the goal.”
Coming into Wednesday night’s contest, the Pride had dropped two consecutive matches, each by three goals. Flushing those previous performances from the memory bank was a necessity, and they did just that against the Golden Bears.
Only nine minutes into the match and Springfield was on the board. Junior Gabby Scott delivered a perfect through ball that squeezed past a Western New England defender right into the feet of senior Nicole Sweeney. Sweeney took one touch and blasted a shot into the left side of the goal to give the Pride a 1-0 lead.
“We’re working on a lot of different things right now. We’re trying to just layer in different facets of the game right now, one chunk at a time,” Cannon said. “Today we did a great job of possessing and working our way to goal and creating some good opportunities. They’re doing all the things we’re asking.”
The Golden Bears responded two short minutes later when Danielle McCarthy ripped a shot from well outside the 18. Ryan lept off her feet, but she was unable to reach the ball as it just sailed over her fingertips and into the back of the net to tie the game. That was the only shot on goal WNE registered in the first half.
Springfield outshot the Golden Bears 6-1 in the first 45 minutes of action and were clearly dominating time of possession. Still, the game was 1-1 heading into halftime.
“Finishing is a really tough thing in the game of soccer, especially when you’re close to goal because there’s a lot of bodies and chaos going on,” Cannon said. “I think the more we get comfortable and the more we keep training and practicing that, the better we’ll be.”
Springfield’s back line, and Ryan, were the story of the second half. Seemingly nothing could get by the defense, and if it did, Ryan was there to gobble it up and diminish any scoring chance Western New England had – much to the amusement of a packed Brock-Affleck crowd.
Every Springfield-Western New England game seems to hold a bit more weight considering they are five minutes down the road from one another, and Wednesday was no different as the physicality and intensity was ramped up as the game progressed.
“(The crowd) 100% does [fire me up] during the game,” Ryan said. “Especially when we’re constantly getting shots on net. Hearing the crowd yell really loud just makes me dig even deeper back there for the last final stretch.”
The Pride improved to an even 2-2 on the season and will now turn their attention to Saturday when they welcome Mount Holyoke at 1 p.m.
Photos Courtesy of Gillian Dube