By: Jon Santer
Assistant Sports Editor
Just as she has been doing the whole season, senior goalkeeper Erin Greenstein rose to the occasion once again, but this time with a little more at stake. With a chance at becoming NEWMAC Champions, Greenstein knew that all she had to do was make one more save to propel her team into the coveted NCAA Tournament.
As senior captain Jordan Muse lined up to take the Lyon’s fifth kick and even the penalty kick score at four, the crowd was murmuring that if Greenstein saved the shot, the Pride would win. Muse approached the ball slowly and fired the ball at the net, but the Pride’s senior goalkeeper blocked it with her hands, sealing the victory for Springfield.
The Pride had done it. Sunday afternoon, at Springfield’s very own Brock-Affleck Field, the Pride had defeated the Wheaton Lyons 4-3 in penalty kicks following a 2-2 draw at the end of a pair of 10 minute golden goal overtimes. The victory earned the Pride an automatic qualifying bid into the NCAA Tournament.
“We played really well,” said Greenstein. “The first half was obviously a lot better than the second but we never gave up. We fought through everything and we knew this was our chance to take it.”
Although the game finished tight, it appeared as if Springfield had a grasp on the game in the early goings. A play that demonstrated the heart and hustle that has been carrying the Pride throughout the entire season, freshman Jessica Miller was taken down by Lyon goalkeeper Ali Hinton inside the box, resulting in a penalty kick.
Being the top penalty kick taker on the team, junior Vicky DiNatale stepped up and fired it past Hinton in the 19th minute. DiNatale’s impressive defensive play along with the goal rewarded her with being named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
Just 1:41 later, junior Ashley Carresi centered a pass to freshman striker Krissy Cicalis, who fired a shot into the top right corner of the net. The goal gave Springfield a quick 2-0 advantage to try and protect for the duration of the game.
Later in the 32nd minute, Cicalis almost added another goal onto the Pride’s lead. Carresi used her dominant left foot to kick a ball just behind the Wheaton defense. Utilizing her speed, Cicalis beat the defender to the ball but fired the shot just wide left of the goal.
“I think we played awesome and we all stepped up when we really needed it,” said the excited freshman. “I am just really proud of everyone.”
As play resumed following halftime, the Lyons came back out on to the field with a more aggressive approach in an effort to chip away at Springfield’s 2-0 lead. Bumping and grinding the Springfield defense, Wheaton finally caught their break.
In the 75th minute, a scrum in the front of the net caught the Pride defense out of position. Taking advantage of this, Lyon freshman forward Cat Amick corralled the loose ball and passed it over to senior Tara Caney who fired a shot past Greenstein to cut the Springfield lead in half.
Similarly to Springfield, Wheaton followed their initial goal with another. Just 1:44 after Caney’s goal, freshman Julia Cipriano passed a through ball in between the Pride defense, allowing senior Cassey Muse to catch up to it and sneak it into the bottom right corner of the net.
“The second half was very poor,” said Springfield coach John Gibson. “We stopped playing, we let them (Wheaton) back in. They are a very powerful, direct, physical team with dangerous players. With all the injuries and all the adversity we have been through, I think this is a remarkable achievement.”
The two teams battled back and forth for the remainder of regulation, forcing overtime.
Just 14 seconds into extra time, Springfield was convinced they had won, for the entire bench had emptied onto the field in celebration of Cicalis’ apparent goal. However, the referee pointed to the top of the net and was waving his arms, signaling that the ball had in fact gone just behind the cross bar.
As time expired in the second overtime period, both sides jogged to their respective benches to prepare themselves for a penalty kick shootout. A shootout with a NEWMAC Championship on the line.
DiNatale, stepped up as Springfield’s first shooter and put a good bid to the right side of the net, but Hinton guessed correctly and stopped the ball before it crossed the goal line. The two sides went back and forth until Greenstein stuffed Lyon’s second shooter Samantha Cronin, giving Springfield the advantage back.
The two sides went back and forth until the injured junior Nina Vital, hobbled out to the spot to take her chance, and converted. Vital was injured in Saturday’s game but Gibson saved her offensive talents for when they were most valuable.
Following Vital’s goal, Greenstein stuffed Jordan Muse’s chance and the Pride rushed the field, for they were to be crowned NEWMAC Champions.
“Erin has been a great player for us,” said Gibson. “She has been great for the past three seasons. This whole season she has been a leader and it will be a great loss when she is not here.”
Now that the Pride have won, Krissy Cicalis has some plans for what comes next: “Kick butt at NCAA’s.”