In the biggest game of the season so far, the Springfield College women’s lacrosse team rose to the occasion – taking down Babson College 8-6 at home on Stagg Field. With the victory, the Pride clinched a NEWMAC Conference Championship, and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The last time Springfield made the NCAA Tournament came in 2019, when the Pride ended the season on a 10-game win streak. This also included taking down Babson in the NEWMAC final, before falling to Franklin & Marshall in the NCAA Tournament Second Round.
Springfield’s defense was on top of its game in the first half. It applied heavy pressure and forced the Babson offense to settle for unwanted shots, only allowing four Beaver goals by halftime. The offense, however, was a different story, only putting up three goals, and going into the half down one.
With her team being down at the half, and knowing that the offensive side of the ball was the problem for the Pride, head coach Kristen Mullady turned to focus more on attacking the goal; which she addressed to the team during its halftime huddle.
“The message was just making a couple adjustments on the attacking end, which I felt helped us a ton,” Mullady said. “In terms of our defense – we played solid defense since the beginning of the game, so it was more just to keep our composure and make a few adjustments on attack. By doing a couple things differently we were able to capitalize a little bit more.”
And that is exactly what they did.
Just over two minutes after the third quarter began, a Babson miss ended up in the hands of senior attacker Taylor Pichel. Starting on the opposing 40-yard line, Pichel drove the length of the field, blowing by every line of defense, until she got close to the goal. Instead of taking the shot herself, she found cutting attacker Karen Joy, who swifty placed the ball in the back of the net, tying the game with 12:07 left in the quarter.
The crowd erupted, and that’s all Springfield needed. A minute later, a falling Katie Martel put the Pride up one – a lead that they retained for the remainder of the game. Springfield scored twice more before quarter’s end, highlighted by an impressive strike from graduate midfielder Jade O’Connor. Standing on the left side of the goal, O’Connor danced around from side to side, slowing the game down and lulling the defense to sleep. When the Beaver defenders let their guard down, she pounced, dashing right by them and bouncing a shot in.
“We came out and we made sure we were patient to score goals,” O’Connor said. “We weren’t too hungry, but we knew we were going to get up if we just took the time we had. That shifted the momentum from theirs to ours.”
Springfield carried that momentum into the fourth, where despite a pair of Babson goals late, the defense stayed strong. With just 0:17 seconds remaining in the game, midfielder Allison Delmonte poked the ball away from Babson, eliminating all chances of the Beavers coming back. A Moody save as time expired was the final nail in the coffin, and the rest of the Pride stormed the field in celebration.
The path to winning the conference championship started all the way back from game one, when a last-second O’Connor goal lifted the Pride over Roger Williams, 10-9, back on Feb. 23.
“Every game leading up, we started the season strong with Roger Williams, and that was kind of the energy starter of the whole season,” O’Connor said. “We carried that and brought it today, and brought [the championship] home.”
Because of her amazing performance in the game (three goals, two assists), O’Connor was also awarded the NEWMAC Women’s Lacrosse Tournament Most Outstanding Player. But winning the award doesn’t quite match up to winning the championship.
“Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without my team,” O’Connor said. “I mean, it’s great to win it – but it’s even better to be a NEWMAC champion, and that’s what we wanted. [Winning the award] wasn’t even in my head during the game.”
Even though the season isn’t quite over yet, O’Connor sums it up as a whole quite simply:
“When you’re NEWMAC champions, it’s probably the best we could feel all season.”
Photo: Springfield College Athletics