By Kevin Saxe
SPRINGFIELD — The clock ticks under five minutes on the scoreboard at Brock Affleck Field. In an instant a ball is whipped in by the visiting Coast Guard Bears clad in their blue and orange jerseys. A sea of bodies swarms the ball. The ball comes to the right foot of Bears midfielder Mike Duant who appears to have a shot. With goalie Chris Prizio scrambling to get back in position Duant blasts a shot destined for the back of the net and a tie game but in an instant the shot is blocked off the line by sophomore defender and captain Jack Costa for the Pride to preserve its 2-1 lead.
Less than five minutes later the Pride would end what was a bend but not break effort in their first conference game with a 2-1 win over the Bears. In what’s been a tough year with a tough out of conference schedule, head coach Tommy Crabill detailed the importance of picking up the first NEWMAC win.
“It’s not a big league so it’s really important but at the same time we’re not really talking about points and results with our guys, we’re talking about complete performances and how to execute in our positions and come together for a full game. I was glad in those tough moments we made for ourselves late in the game we saw it through.”
For the Pride who have had trouble putting the first goal on the board, the game got off to a dream start as just 5:14 into the Joseph Olaynack made a nice pass through to fellow sophomore Andrew Ma who was able to pot one in the bottom right corner beating the diving attempt of Coast Guard goalie Dakota Harich to put the Pride up by one. The second the two goals was made possible by a great effort by freshmen Sajan Harvey on the end line. Harvey was able to dribble around multiple Bears defenders before finding fellow freshmen Will Lawson in front for Lawson’s first collegiate goal. The assist was also Harvey’s first collegiate point.
In net today for the Pride was freshmen Clayton Knibbs. After starting the first three games of the year for the Pride, Knibbs hadn’t seen game action in nearly two and a half weeks. However, when he was needed in the first half today he came up with multiple clutch saves to keep the Pride lead at two, including two with about eighteen minutes left in the first half. After laying out to stop Daunt’s initial shot he recovered just seconds later make a stellar save on the Bears Robbie Fugett. Crabill talked about the importance of the freshmen not just for today but going forward as well as the work of Knibbs in net today.
“We’re going to count on them every day. When we see diligent, mature, hardworking performances from the first year guys it’s a good sign. They just have to be consistent,” Crabill explained. “I was really happy for Clay [Knibbs] rebounding after a tough opening week so he’s a guy who’s really hard on himself so to see him make some awesome saves was something we’re happy with.”
Much like the Pride seemed to control most of the game in the first half, Coast Guard seemed to tilt the field in their favor in the second half. After a diving save by Halrich on six and a half minutes on Jack Rosenberg the Bears seemed to pick up the tempo. With the Pride on their heels the Bears were awarded a penalty kick with 11:29 left in the second half after a foul in the box. Daunt calmly buried it as Pride goalie Chris Prizio who played the second half guessed wrong and the Bears cut the lead to 2-1. However for the Pride they would bend but not break including a save on a corner by Prizio with about ninety seconds left to go. Although happy to get the conference win Costa knows the Pride will have to continue to grind.
“It’s a huge win for us but like I said we’re not satisfied with it. We’ve got a lot more to go and we say all the time ‘Embrace the Grind of the Season’. The NEWMAC really is a grind, every team is in it and can win it.”
For the Bears Halrich made seven saves in the loss while Knibbs and Prizio combined for five for the Pride. The Bears who dropped to 3-4 and 0-1 in the NEWMAC return home on Tuesday to play their in state rival Mitchell College while for the Pride who improve to 2-5-1 will travel to Endicott on Tuesday night at seven for a nonconference showdown.
Featured photo courtesy Jack Margaros