A penalty kick in the opening minutes made the difference as host no. 4 Springfield defeated no. 5 Emerson 1-0 in NEWMAC women’s soccer quarterfinal action Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Three minutes and 10 seconds into the contest, Lions junior center defender Laura McGuire was given a yellow card for an illegal tackle in her team’s goalie box, and a penalty kick was awarded to the Pride. Senior Springfield defender Elizabeth Monsen took advantage of the opportunity, and slipped a shot past senior Emerson goalkeeper Melanie Escobar for the lone goal of the match.
“I think what Laura did was very smart, because she was the last defender and she was just trying to see if she could get a touch on the ball, if anything,” Escobar said. “The ref thought that he was trying to be smart with safety and I respect that he made that decision, but he made other calls in the game that I did not agree with.”
Lions head coach David Suvak didn’t like the call.
“My initial thought was, very early call. It appeared [Laura] got the ball and did she clip the player? I’m not so sure I saw that,” Suvak said. “But the Springfield forward did a very nice job in embellishing it well enough, and that gamesmanship is part of soccer. I wish my kids had that ability as well, just to push the law a little bit, but in the end the call is the call and they scored a goal.”
The remainder of the game was competitive, but the score didn’t budge. Ten of Springfield’s 16 shots were on goal, with Escobar saving all but the PK. On the other side of the field, junior goalkeeper Ciara Boucher earned the clean sheet for the Pride, stopping all nine of the Lions’ shots on goal.
Freshman forward Veronica Alberts, sophomore forward Jess Frost, and junior center midfielder Alexandra Levin led the offensive for Emerson, each getting two of three attempts on target. The team finished the night with 14 total shots.
“I wanted our team to stay true to our style of soccer, which was get the ball on the ground, keep possession, and make diagonal passes—as many as we can going forward,” Suvak said. “I felt confident that those types of situations could create goal-scoring opportunities for us.”
McGuire drew her second yellow card in the 89th minute, again in her own box, leading to a red card and an ejection. The penalty kick and the chance to put the game away flew wide left. It was the first red card of the season for the Lions.
“Maybe it was Laura’s frustration, but I really don’t even think of it as it being a mistake on Laura’s part at all,” Escobar, a journalism major, said. “I just thought it was poor officiating on that whole side. I did not think it was anything other than that.”
In their regular season matchup on Oct. 15, the squads were scoreless through regulation until sophomore forward Paige Haley scored the game-winner for the Lions four minutes into extra time.
On Tuesday, Emerson played nearly the entire contest from behind.
“What I saw from [Springfield] that was different was they were playing longer balls,” Suvak said. “They would play a ball forward, a ball back, and then put a ball forward usually 30 or 40 yards and let their forwards run in on it and compete against our backs. I expected that team to play differently; I didn’t expect them to play like that.”
Springfield (11-4-3, 5-2-3) will take on top-seeded WPI (14-2-2, 8-1-1) in the conference semifinals Saturday. Emerson (10-10, 5-5) lost four out of their last five.
This match marks the first NEWMAC playoff game for the Lions women’s soccer program in four years in the conference, and its first season without a losing NEWMAC record.
“This team has evolved over the years and is making their own history in a very short amount of time and they’re proving that they can beat good teams,” Suvak said. “That history has to continue to develop to make them a strong soccer program.”
Suvak said he will not apply for entrance into the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship, the invitational tournament the Lions won last year. He said that after consulting with Emerson athletic director Patricia Nicol, they have decided to put the focus of the program completely on the NEWMAC.