Heather Raniolo’s pass floated gracefully on an arch towards the front of MIT’s goal. A cutting Kristen Steidler sprinted towards the net and made the reception. Steidler spiked the shot on a low line drive for Springfield women’s lacrosse’s tenth goal of the game, and embraced with Raniolo all in one motion, simultaneous with the Pride’s sideline roaring to life.
It was that kind of day for the Pride. Redemption at its finest. The overcast sky was dark with dread, just as it was on the fatal day last summer over Stagg Field, the very field where the anticipation of a NEWMAC championship died for Springfield at the hands of the same Engineers.
But despite their furious effort, and a six goal display from their attacker Emily Young, there would be no such sequel for MIT. Steidler’s goal was the fourth of the 7-0 run executed by the Pride in the second quarter in a contest resulting in Springfield victorious, 13-10.
“We knew coming into the game that they beat us on our field [in the 2015 NEWMAC Finals],” said midfielder Heather Raniolo. “We wanted to come out strong, and we brought the energy off the draw.”
The second half streak for Springfield smothered a 4-0 Engineer run and distanced the Pride from being afflicted by four straight MIT goals coming in the final two minutes of the contest.
“We knew going into halftime that they were going to come out hungry,” Raniolo said. “We had to come out of halftime stronger off the draw and [we needed to] keep the ball on our side, and I think we did a really good job with that.”
The mindset against MIT will remain consistent for Springfield, as the Engineers will be a conference foe who will be lurking during the NEWMAC tournament.
“MIT is very strong, very fast, and very physical,” said Springfield coach Kristen Mullady. “We have to play our game 100 percent of the time, and we can’t let down for even one minute because they take advantage when we are not playing our best.”
Following a difficult loss to No. 11 Amherst, Springfield has responded with three straight wins against conference opponents and has checked in at the mid-season mark with a record of 8-2.
“It [has] really helped to boost our confidence,” said attacker Shelby Corsano. “Amherst was a really good team, and we gave it all we had, but these [conference] wins really help us to push forward in the NEWMAC and keep it going.”
The team believes that facing nationally ranked teams such as Amherst will sharpen their skills against strong teams that they are primed to face in the playoffs.
“We have played really great teams, the teams we lost to, Amherst and Stevenson, but they made us better knowing how to handle the pressure,” said Raniolo.
Mullady says that the team has to stay mentally strong against top ranked teams, and believes in her squad’s ability.
“We need to be more confident going into [those] games,” she said. “We started to play our game too late against Amherst, so we have to play consistently well throughout the whole game to beat a team that’s as good as they are. And we can do it. We need to put our defensive unit and attack unit together.”
The Pride has proven that no deficit is too deep for them to recover from, as they have shown their capability to go on torrid runs throughout the course of a game. Against their first conference opponent in the Wellesley Blue, Springfield scored four unanswered goals in the first and five unanswered goals in the second. Runs were key in their tilt against the Engineers (5-0 run to begin the game and a 7-0 run to split MIT’s flow of eight goals in the second).
“Every game is a big game, but we’re seeing more competition as the season goes along,” Mullady said. “Every situation that we’ve hit throughout the season is helping us get better.”
Though Mullady has received significant production from both her starting lineup and her bench, there have been several players who have made an impact midway through the season.
Goalkeeper Gabby Anderson has made 60 saves for Springfield, while her save percentage currently stands at 47.2 percent. “We’ve played very strong teams and Gabby’s staying composed in all situations,” said Mullady. “She’s making some big saves that some other goalies might not make, and that keeps our defensive unit together.”
Shelby Corsano has established herself as one of the Pride’s most productive players, as she scored six goals in the showdown against MIT. “She’s been getting stronger every game, not only with putting the ball in the net, but also with finding open players, and moving around really well,” said Raniolo. “She’s been taking advantage of the space that she’s been given.”
For the season, Corsano has netted 28 goals, while sporting a 53.8 shot percentage, seven assists, 35 points, 26 groundballs, 33 draw controls and eight caused turnovers.
“She’s very composed,” Mullady said. “She’s a quiet player but she’s very confident in herself. For being a sophomore, jumping that much from freshman to sophomore year just tells you how hard she’s worked to become the player that she is now.”
Corsano says she just wants to win. “My teammates push me in practice every day,” she said. “I want to win games. It keeps me going, I just want to do well for my team.”
The seniors for the Pride have demonstrated solid leadership on a rather youthful team. Heather Raniolo has put together an all-around season line with 19 goals, 23 points, 25 draw controls, and nine caused turnovers. Bianca Raniolo, a key distributor in the Pride’s offense, has tallied 18 assists while netting 11 goals and turning the opposition over nine times.
The Pride will host Mount Holyoke and Trinity (Connecticut), on Saturday and Sunday.