By Sean Savage
The Springfield College women’s soccer team picked up a big win at Brock-Affleck field defeating Clark University 2-0, bringing the Pride’s record to 4-1-2 on the season.
Springfield entered today’s contest with a chip on its shoulder as Clark defeated the Pride twice last year.
“Clark is always a tough opponent,” head coach Kristin Cannon said. “Over the years, it has been a great rivalry; both teams were up for this game.”
On top of this, the Cougars have gotten off to a very successful 2023 season, netting 15 goals in six games while only conceding once with a record of 5-0-1.
The game kicked off with both teams on the hunt; each entering today’s matchup with an undefeated conference record. The eagerness rippled through the atmosphere as the intensity was through the roof.
Despite the Cougars attacking aggressively down the flanks, the Pride’s defense was up to the task. The backline did an efficient job of forcing opposing players to tough angles and denying through balls.
“We worked a lot on our backline,” Cannon said. “They were lights out today. They were awesome.”
The Cougars had its first good look of the evening off a corner kick. A ball was lofted into the middle of the box and found Clark’s defender Ashlee Samuel. As she towered in the air, the ball was headed just wide of the near post.
Springfield turned around very quickly from the set piece. Meredith Healy received the ball down the left flank off Springfield’s goal kick and darted down the line, breezing past Clark’s fullback.
From there, Healy resorted to a tactic known as a Bangu: with the ball at Clark’s baseline, it forced goalkeeper Anabella White to cover her near post. Healy gracefully delivered a beautiful low-driven ball to the penalty spot, which found Pride captain Jen Walker. The pass left White out of position, and Walker slotted the ball into the empty net.
“Big things we talked about this week was switching the point of attack and finding those wide spaces,” Cannon said.
The Pride did not look back from that moment.
Walker’s goal at the 28-minute mark opened the floodgates, as just five minutes later, the Pride would find the back of the net again.
From the middle of the pitch, Natalia Mottura found a pocket of space where she perfectly placed a through ball to Walker.
Once the ball was received, Walker set herself up and rocketed a knuckleball that powered right past White to extend the Pride’s lead to 2-0.
Before heading into the half, the Pride had one more golden opportunity for an insurance goal, as Julianna DaCosta flew down the center of the pitch on a counterattack, finding herself one-on-one with the keeper.
White had a great initial save, battering the ball away, and had a second reflex save when Kaitlyn Suller attempted to net the rebound.
Through the first 45, the Pride held Clark to just two shots on target to its own seven. A clear halftime message from Cannon helped the Pride replicate a stellar first-half performance.
“We have to settle in and keep the ball,” Cannon said. “The only time they really had any chances was when we gave the ball away.”
In the 60th minute, Suller danced with the ball in the middle of the pitch before finding Walker down the flank. A sense of déjà vu filled the air as Walker tried for another Bangu: the ball found Kayla McGrath just behind the penalty mark, but the ball was sent just over the crossbar.
For the Cougars, Ainsley Golini amassed two chances off of headers, both of which were not on target.
Once the final minutes trickled away, the Pride excitedly stormed the field with the sound of the buzzer.
“It was a great win for us today. We will take it and keep improving,” Cannon said. “We just have to take care of business every day.”
The Pride will look to keep its two game win streak alive on Wednesday, Sept. 27, hosting Rensselaer at 7 p.m.