Mere hours after being in a walking boot with a lower right leg injury, Springfield College midfielder Samantha Andresen trotted onto Stagg Field to start the second quarter. Despite the Pride defense playing well, Wheaton College had ended the opening period with three straight goals, pushing the Lyons lead to 4-2 and securing sole possession of the momentum.
With superstar midfielder Jade O’Connor being face-guarded the entirety of the game – preventing a key piece of the Springfield offense from operating – and in need of an offensive spark, Pride head coach Jenn Thomas turned to Andresen.
“She’s been struggling with an injury, but we told her if we need her then we need her to step up and be ready to go,” Thomas said. “Luckily during warm-ups, she felt pretty good, and we decided to put her in to have another threat.”
Just moments after Andresen checked in, the Springfield offense took off – becoming too much for Wheaton to handle.
With 10:58 left in the second, Andresen hit a cutting Lauren Landino to cut the Lyons lead to one. Less than a minute later, Andresen took matters into her own hands, driving right through the teeth of the defense to tie the game at 4.
After Wheaton answered back with a goal, Andresen showed off her vision once again, threading a needle pass to Arielle Johnson over the middle – who’s spinning shot goal tied the game again. A Jade O’Connor score to end the quarter gave Springfield a one point halftime lead.
Although she lit the spark for the Pride offense, Andresen humbly accredits the big run to the whole team stepping up.
“With Jade being face-guarded, it just relies on everyone else on the team,” Andresen said. “It’s not a one-person offense, it takes everyone.”
Springfield’s run to end the half ultimately became the deciding factor, as the Pride never lost the lead in the second half, en route to a 16-9 victory in the opening round of the NEWMAC Conference Championship.
Even with the Pride heading into the second half up one, Thomas was not pleased with how the team was performing. But, by the midway point of the third quarter, that sentiment completely shifted.
In less than five minutes, Springfield scored four straight goals, blowing the game wide open. And it all stemmed from Carlee Crispens. Despite not being one of the main draw controllers on the team, she won each of the first four, leading to the four scores. It was a risk that Thomas wanted to take, and it panned out beautifully.
“I think we really struggled in the first half. We made a minor adjustment going into halftime, and once when we made that adjustment – with a few other different combinations on the circle – we found they were successful. So we just continued to hammer out possessions and emphasize that possession is key in order to win this game.”
Springfield dominated the second half in draw controls, out-performing Wheaton 12-4 and 17-12 overall.
Another bright spot for the Pride has been the continued historic season for O’Connor. Even though she was fiercely defended all game, O’Connor found the back of the net three times. Her third and final goal of the game not only capped off a 7-0 Springfield run, but was also the 64 goal she has scored this season – placing her tied for first on the single season goals scored list at Springfield.
O’Connor has put quite an impressive mark on her time at Springfield. Along with being tied for the goals scored record, she is fourth all-time on the single season points list with 75 and became the 20th person in school history to score over 100 career goals – doing so in only two seasons.
Heading into next week, the No. 3 Pride will take on No. 2 Babson on Wed., May 3 with a chance to punch their ticket to the NEWMAC Championship. Although the Pride lost 16-6 in their first matchup, Thomas believes this time could be different.
“We are looking to get the job done,” Thomas said. “We’re going to make a few more adjustments and keep growing as a team – but I think what’s awesome is that we have yet to reach our highest potential. I really do think that this is our time and it’s going to be a great week for us.”
Photo: Springfield College Athletics