In their final regular season game of 2021, the Springfield College Pride men’s soccer team fought and battled all the way to the end, but fell just short of victory in a 1-0 loss to NEWMAC foe, Babson, spoiling Springfield’s senior day Saturday afternoon.
The lone goal came off the left foot of Babson senior forward, Mitchell Collins, in the 55th minute of the game. After Beavers senior forward, Robert Dunne, tried to maneuver his way through the Pride back line, he was tripped up just outside of the box and Babson was awarded a free kick.
Collins rifled a perfectly curled shot around the four-man Springfield wall, and snuck it into the bottom left corner of the net by the dive of Pride junior keeper Clay Knibbs.
“He just put it on target with a little bend around the wall,” said Springfield head coach Tommy Crabill. “It was an accurate shot with good pace from a good player. Just a smart way to take the kick.”
Early on in the game, the Pride established their aggressive pace, and generated several scoring opportunities to try and build an early lead. Within the first ten minutes of action, Springfield had already taken three corners and four shots. Some of their best chances the entire game occurred in that time frame, but they walked away with no goals to show for.
“It’s just been hard [to score goals] lately,” Crabill said. “We’ve had injuries this year at attacking positions, and we have new guys in attacking positions where it’s now required of them to take the responsibility of scoring goals. The good thing is, everybody on this team has the ability to do it, it just gets harder when you have to do it with intentionality.”
Collins’ free kick aside, the Pride’s defense was able to shut down everything thrown in their direction. Babson registered just two shots on goal to Springfield’s eight, and the Pride held an advantage in corner kicks 9-6.
As they have done all year, the back line stood tall and strong, even as the downpouring rain lingered through Brock-Affleck Field.
“They were flying all over the field,” Crabill said of his defense. “Whether it was winning first balls in the air, stepping into passing lanes to make it difficult for them to have clean and dangerous scoring chances, or forcing them into bad angle crosses, they did everything. Defensively and through the midfield, those guys battled so hard today.”
Although Crabill rolls out different combinations of back line guys from time to time, he stuck with senior captain and defenseman Jack Costa, junior defender Pat Silva, and first year defender Brandon Trent all game long. The three of them, under the direction of Knibbs, played phenomenal.
“Jack Costa was an animal, he played so great for us, Pat Silva communicated so well and Brandon Trent was winning every ball that came his way,” Crabill said. “All three of them did everything I asked them to do, and you have to have defensive performances like that in the NEWMAC to have chances to win, and we did. I’m proud of how they battled today to give us that chance.”
Following Collins’ goal in the second half, the Pride had one extremely good chance to deadlock the game at one.
In the 63rd minute, off a corner from sophomore midfielder Michael Tocci, first year Matthew Mela found himself in the perfect position for a header. As the ball approached him, he flicked his head and sent the ball towards goal. The Beavers keeper, senior Itai Rubin, covered a substantial amount of ground as he laid out to punch the ball away from danger and preserve the Babson lead that would not be given up.
“It’s definitely a positive to look at the effort we put out there,” said Costa. “We had a talk at halftime and we knew it was going to be close. We knew whoever wanted it more was going to go after it and get it, and at the end of the day we just didn’t get the result we wanted.
With the Beavers’ win on Saturday, the NEWMAC standings now align to have these two teams meet again on Thursday in the conference tournament. Considering the Pride dominated time of possession and had more shots and corners, a rematch is exactly what they want.
“We just have to get a little more connected through our back line, midfield and forwards,” said Costa. “There were moments where we looked connected, and we played great. Then there were moments where we didn’t. We have the whole week to prepare, and we can’t wait for another shot at them.”
Photo: Danielle Schmelling/The Student