By Danny Priest
SPRINGFIELD — With 8:35 to go in the second half of the NEWMAC semifinals, Springfield’s Brad Deckel received a pass from Jack Rosenberg and had a golden chance to score. The WPI goaltender had come out too high and Deckel struck the ball with his right foot and it floated up into the air.
As the ball sailed through the cool fall air on Brock-Affleck field, it felt like time slowed down. The crowds murmur rose to a cheer, the Springfield bench began to jump and after what felt like an eternity, Deckel’s shot ended up in the back of the net.
It would be the only score of the game as the Springfield College men’s soccer team, the second seed in the NEWMAC Tournament, defeated the third seeded WPI Engineers by a score of 1-0 to advance to the NEWMAC Championship.
“I knew that as soon as he hit it, it was going to be perfect,” Deckel said of the long pass from Rosenberg that set up his goal. “I timed the run well, I got behind them, and then the small glimpse I got I saw the goalie coming out, so I just chipped it over him.”
The goal was the first of the postseason for Deckel after he racked up five of them during the regular season. For Rosenberg, it was his first postseason assist after getting two assists during the year.
The goal snapped a streak of 422 minutes and 50 seconds of gameplay between Springfield and WPI in which no goals were scored. Prior to Thursday night, the teams had played three consecutive double-overtime games that ended in 0-0 scores and a regulation or overtime goal had not been recorded since 2016.
That is 7 hours, 2 minutes and 50 seconds without a goal. “Streak or not, we’re always excited to bring goals into the match in whatever way we can,” said Pride coach Tommy Crabill. “Playing a really strong opponent in WPI, you have to take advantage of your chances because it might be very few.”
It is no secret that this season has been a process for the Pride, but the win was the first in NEWMAC Tournament play for Crabill, who is in his inaugural season at the helm of Springfield. It is a well-earned victory after a season of adjusting on the fly and learning on the go.
Despite the win being a landmark for him, Crabill was more excited with Deckel and the rest of the team.
“It was a unique moment in the match [the goal], but I’m really, really happy for him because he has the ability to do those things, so it’s exciting to see him execute.”
The win earned Springfield a trip to the NEWMAC Championship, which will be played on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Pride will be facing either first seed Babson or four seed Wheaton.
Should Babson advance, the game will be held on their field. If Wheaton can come out on top, they will travel to Springfield since they are the lower seed.
Regardless of who the opponent is, the Pride will be prepared. Deckel has been through many NEWMAC games now, but scoring a goal when it matters most still has a special feeling come tournament time.
“It’s definitely more emotional and more passionate because you know these games are win or go home, so in that sense, yeah, it means a lot more to everyone and you can just see it in everyone’s reaction.”
Crabill, who sat on the bench and removed his hat and ran his hand through his hair almost as a sigh of relief after Deckel’s goal, is excited that he gets to keep working with his group for at least one more game.
“I know it was a big game, a tournament game, but for some reason it just feels like there’s a lot more soccer in our group,” he said. “I’m really happy that we get to train on and be together a little bit longer and get geared up for another NEWMAC Tournament game.”
Featured photo courtesy of Helen Lucas