By Kevin Saxe
CAMBRIDGE — As the wind howled during Saturday’s NEWMAC championship game at Steinbrenner Stadium, MIT’s Emily Berzolla sent a ball into the box off a corner kick, that found the foot of Maya Nielan.
Nielan’s shot would hit the crossbar but the ball fell to teammate Amy Apostol’s foot and she was able to find the back of the net, thus ending the Pride’s hope for a NEWMAC title and the automatic bid that comes with it in a gut-wrenching 2-1 overtime loss. Understandably Head coach John Gibson wasn’t too pleased with the game.
“It’s very unsatisfactory really…It’s a very disappointing way to end the tournament.”
The Pride came out energized maintaining possession extremely well in the MIT zone. Despite not having any shots early on, Springfield controlled possession. The Pride got the breakthrough just 12:12 into the game when Amanda Wright sent a shot in on goal, that Engineers goalie Lily Mueller couldn’t handle, leading to a loose ball which Sara Swetland deposited into the net for an early lead.
However, that lead would be short lived for the Pride as just 22 seconds later, the Engineers came right back and tied it.
Off a pass from Amy Apostol, Karenna Groff took a shot from the top of the box and put it past the outstretched hands of Pride goalie Jackie Davis to tie the game. The rest of the first half, the Pride controlled possession for a good portion and outshot the Engineers 8-4 overall and 4-1 in shots on goal.
As halftime neared the skies opened, leading to a deluge of rain that sent umbrellas into action. When the rain stopped, the newest weather factor was the wind. At times it was 25-30 mph with gusts between ranging between 50-60 mph; so powerful that the light stanchions at the field were moving.
As the wind picked up it heavily favored the Engineers as they were playing with the wind while the Pride had to defend into it. Despite holding the Engineers scoreless, the Pride defended for a good portion of the second half.
However, the senior Davis made all eight of her saves in the second half to hold off the Engineers, who outshot the Pride 12-1 overall and 8-0 in shots on goal. Gibson detailed the difficulty in playing in such windy conditions.
“It makes it very hard to play into a wind that strong. It makes it very hard to clear the ball,” he said. “It makes it hard to get out of your own end and to play a ball through because the wind will hold it up. Goal kicks were difficult, but Kinsey [Colby] did a good job of blasting those out as far as she could. Jackie [Davis] made a string of good saves when they got shots off.”
For the Pride the loss denies them the chance at the automatic bid given to the conference champion. However, there is a slight chance at getting a coveted at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. If not, the Pride will surely be back to defend their ECAC title.
Regardless of the result, which gives the Pride a 14-5-1 record overall, Gibson is proud of the way his team fought till the end.
“I’m immensely proud. Against a team that is much bigger than us, much more physical, there were a lot of heavy challenges going in. I’m very proud of the way they stuck to it. I’m very proud of the way they played.”
Featured photo courtesy of Helen Lucas