By Kevin Saxe
SPRINGFIELD — After a athrilling 1-0 victory for the Springfield College men’s soccer team over WPI in their NEWMAC semifinal game earlier on Brock-Affleck Field, the women’s soccer team left no doubt as they scored early in a 3-1 victory over the Emerson Lions in the NEWMAC semifinals on Thursday night.
For the Pride they were able to mix a solid offensive performance with a stout defensive performance that left head coach John Gibson happy with the team’s overall play, especially in the second half.
“We got the early goal which is always great. I think we played well for maybe 20-25 minutes. We probably should’ve had more. In the second half I think we made more chances,” Gibson said. “The game opened a bit more because they were working very hard to try and get back in. Our ball movement and the talent of players like Amanda [Wright] had a great game and Kaleigh [Dale] is just a different class.”
The last time the Pride played the Lions, it was the Lions getting off to the quick start just 3:18 into the game with a goal. The script was flipped in the NEWMAC semifinal as it was Springfield who jumped to the early lead.
Just 2:38 into the game, the Pride found the back of the net when Sara Swetland slid a pass to Wright who finished for her 10th goal of the season, marking her fourth consecutive game with a goal. For Wright, it’s not just something she’s done but something the whole team has contributed to.
“We’re all just moving off the ball well, and we’re working as a team well. We’re taking the early chances, coach always says shoot early, so I took one touch and shot it.”
After scoring a goal early in the first the Lions seemed to find their footing defensively. However, in the second half the other stars from the Pride found the insurance goals they were looking for.
It started with the magical footwork of Dale. After a forcing a turnover around midfield Dale made an unbelievable run into the box, dodging defenders and showcasing her footwork and dribbling ability before having her shot saved by Emerson goalie Megan Rose. However, the run was not all for not, as Swetland buried the rebound for her fifth goal of the season to put the Pride up, 2-0.
Dales ability was further shown in the 73rd minute. Off a Sydney Wine corner that curled in the box through the cool air, Dale rose above all and finished the header with ease beating Rose and putting the Pride up 3-0.
With this game showing some of the weapons in the Pride offense, Gibson talked about how the trio of Dale, Swetland and Wright are great players, but each of them in their own way.
“They’re three very different players. Sara [Swetland] has a soft touch, and she holds the ball up well. She’s quicker then she looks, and she defends from the front well. She inserts herself between defenders and the ball and I don’t know how she does it,” he sid. “Amanda [Wright] is incredibly fast. When she got here four years ago she was mainly a track person, but she’s made herself a really accomplished, dangerous forward.”
Gibson added, “Kaleigh [Dale] is an all-around gifted soccer player who can score and defend. I wondered if she could head a ball very well earlier in the season, and she scored that towering header, so I guess that answers that question.”
Not to be overshadowed in the game was the Pride’s stellar defensive work. Every time the Lions would penetrate the defense of the Pride there was someone to challenge them. Even if the ball got through on goal, senior goalie Jackie Davis was there to make the saves.
Both Davis and Rose played well as Rose made nine saves in the defeat while Davis made three stops in the win. Gibson talked very highly of Davis and how, despite not seeing a lot of traffic in her area, her performance was key to the team’s success.
“Jackie [Davis] didn’t have a lot of work to do but she was great on that breakaway when she came out and had strong hands on the ball. She made a couple of good saves in the second half.”
What’s Next for the Pride
With the win the Pride move onto the NEWMAC tournament finals, where they will head to Cambridge to play the top seeded MIT at 1 PM. The Pride have lost four consecutive meetings to the Engineers, with their last win being in the 2015 NEWMAC tournament semifinals in penalty kicks — the same year of the last NEWMAC title for the Pride. As a senior, Wright wants to finish her last NEWMAC game on top.
“To everyone it’s very important, but as a senior this could be one of our last games. We want to win it. We want to end on that win in the NEWMACs. We want that NEWMAC title.”
Featured photo courtesy of Helen Lucas