Behind junior forward Aiden Casinghino’s second hat trick of the season, the Springfield College men’s soccer team cruised to a 7-1 victory over the Castleton Spartans on a rainy, blustery Tuesday night.
The Pride hosted a “Think Pink” game, to raise awareness for breast cancer, at Brock-Affleck Field, which was drenched with water from the rain. This caused the ball to reach its intended destination much quicker than it would on a dry surface – disrupting the players’ timing on several occasions throughout the game.
“I love playing in the rain,” said Casinghino. “I really love it. The ball slides far, you can slide really far, everything comes off cleaner and faster. It’s just chaos, honestly.”
It was certainly on display that Casinghino and the Pride enjoyed playing in those conditions, as they jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.
With the game tied 1-1 after goals off the head of Springfield sophomore defensive midfielder, Sebastian Correia (4’), and off the right foot of Spartans first-year midfielder Toby Ritzkowski (32’), Casinghino – who came off the bench ready to showcase his skills – gave the Pride a lead that would not be squandered again.
In the 42nd minute, he received a pass in the middle of the pitch from first-year Koul Majok with plenty of space to work. Noticing the open turf in front of him, Casinghino took one short touch to set up a shot and blasted a strike from 35-yards out that skimmed the crossbar on its way into the goal. Castleton’s sophomore keeper Jonathan Maul stood no chance, and Springfield jumped ahead 2-1 right before halftime.
“I feel like I have a lot more freedom to play,” said Casinghino. “There’s not as much pressure, personally, when you come off the bench. I can play freely without that added pressure, and that helps a lot.”
The Pride were not done in the opening frame, however, as they added one more goal with under a minute remaining until halftime.
Graduate senior Ian Macala made a tremendous move around a Spartan defender at the top right corner of the box to free himself for an attempt at goal and fired a shot at Maul. He made a miraculous diving save, but it redirected right to the feet of Pride first-year Matthew Mela, who tapped in the empty-net goal to extend Springfield’s lead to 3-1 after the first 45 minutes of soccer.
Shots on goal were in favor of the Pride 6-1 in that first half, and they also had an extreme edge in corners, 7-0.
“I was really happy with how the team responded after the goal we gave up,” said Pride head coach Tommy Crabill. “We played a good team so if you turn it off, they’re going to find a good movement to score. I’m glad the guys dug deep and figured out how to turn things around for us, they bounced back in a big way.”
Momentum didn’t shift after halftime. Springfield continued to generate a flurry of shots at Maul, totaling 17 of their 30 shots in the second half.
Michael Tocci was responsible for the next Pride goal, one that was eerily similar to the Casinghino strike in the first half. He took a pass from senior midfielder Jack Rosenberg, used a touch to gain balance and control the ball, and let a rocket off his right foot fly towards the goal. Maul leaped up and could not get a piece of it as it tucked into the top right corner for the goal.
“They have to do everything well in training for it to translate well into games,” said Crabill. “It’s important that they show the consistency in the training so that when they get to the games they can do it at a high level. That’s what it looks like when they train hard, we get a lot of contributors in the game.”
Casinghino added his second goal of the night in the 73rd minute to catapult the Pride to an insurmountable 5-1 advantage. After losing to Castleton 3-2 in 2019, Springfield has improved significantly and was on the opposite side of defeat tonight.
“As a team this year, we’re just up as a whole,” said Casinghino. “Everything from our relationships off the field, to how we play on the field is much better than they were two years ago. Coach has really put an emphasis on that, and kind of put it in our hands to build that relationship.”
Sophomore defenseman Jack Habersaat found Casinghino for his third goal, which was an easy one-touch after Habersaat’s low cross was guided directly to his feet.
First-year Skylar Shum added another goal on Majok’s second assist of the night to wrap up the scoring for the Pride.
Andrew Ma, Koul Majok (3), Ian Macala, and Jack Rosenberg picked up assists in Springfield’s victory.
“The players love playing in the rain,” Crabill said. “It made for a fun night game environment against a well organized and well-coached opponent. I’m happy with the performance from everyone, we had a lot of new guys in new positions.”
Junior goalie Clay Knibbs had a relatively quiet night in the box, but his thunderous voice was still heard shouting commands to his defense to aid them into the right defensive position. Knibbs collected two saves, his first not coming until the 57th minute, on the three Castleton shots on goal.
Springfield (10-5) wraps up the regular season on Saturday when they host NEWMAC opponent Babson at 12:00 p.m. With a win Saturday, the Pride would make it six out of their last seven to finish out the season. Casinghino and company are adamant they will stay focused on Babson and not look ahead to postseason play, which definitely looms large as the days pass.
“Not looking ahead is something we’ve been good at all season,” he said. “We just have to do what we’ve been doing, which is work hard at practice these next couple of days and keep our eyes on Babson.”
Photo: Danielle Schmelling/The Student