By Nick Pantages
The smash of the ball against the back of the net signaled to everyone at Stagg Field that MIT forward Paige Forester had won the game for the Engineers in overtime.
Her strike just 72 seconds into the overtime period gave MIT the 4-3 win over Springfield on parents weekend.
The Pride came into the game losing two straight, and the Engineers the opposite, winners of two in a row and boasting the ranking of 23rd in the country according to the NFHCA poll – including a win at 11th ranked Amherst earlier this week. Springfield fought hard but ultimately came up just a few bounces short to drop them to 3-5 on the season.
The game started in the Pride’s favor after some nice passing around the top of the circle. Kaitlin Bardellini threw a shot on net that somehow snuck its way into the bottom corner to give the Pride an early lead.
Head coach Mia Olsen said, “We just found the pockets of space. I think we came out really hard in the first [period].”
When the second period started, it didn’t take long for the Engineers to knot the game back up, as Forester found some breathing room and scored her first of the game.
As time ticked down in the second period, first-year Hailey Gaydos took over. Coming off a penalty corner, Gaydos got the ball from fellow first-year Samara Skully and flung a strike into the right side of the net to give Springfield their second goal of the game.
Less than two minutes later, she struck again, with Emma Robinson lofting her a pass over an MIT defender’s stick, where Gaydos controlled it and fired near-post for her team leading seventh goal of the season.
“We moved the ball much, much better than I’ve seen us do in the past,” Olsen said. “And we just scored off a corner so that always feels great.”
However with just 47 seconds left in the second, the Engineers cut their deficit down to one as Janie Thomas collected a rebound and calmly scored.
The third period was scoreless, but it took some hard work from Springfield to keep their lead.
A period earlier in the second, it took three sprawling Pride defenders to keep MIT from scoring with the ball inches away from the line. In the third, with a clear scoring opportunity for the Engineers, junior defender Claire Munkacsi threw herself between the ball and the goal, forcing it to go out of play for an MIT penalty corner, which they misplayed and turned over a couple seconds later.
“They always give that effort, I never have to push them with that. I think it’s just part of our culture now to do whatever it takes to keep the ball out,” Olsen said.
The other reason the game stayed scoreless was due to another stellar game in net by Neilee Hess, who came up with 11 saves on the afternoon.
“I tell the goalies all the time, you just need to have a presence about yourself, and I think [Hess] did that really well,” Olsen said. “Just having that confidence and being able to direct the defense has been big for us.”
After a string of unsuccessful MIT penalty corners, they finally got one to go, with the ball finding Forrester in front of the net, who’s powerful strike tied the game back up at three with 10 minutes left, and also adding her second goal of the day.
Both teams had chances over the last 10 minutes of regulation, and the Engineers threatened multiple times but strong clearances from the Pride defense forced the extra period.
“We are super young, so just being able to hold the lead is going to be important moving forward, instead of being frantic,” Olsen said.
Springfield had possession for the first part of overtime, but after losing it and giving the Engineers the chance to go on the counterattack, the ball floated around the circle until Forrester found it to put it home and end the game.
It was the second last-second loss for the Pride during this three-game slide, and they look to right the ship on Tuesday night when they take on Albertus Magnus at Stagg Field.