The women’s soccer team claims first championship berth in program history

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Danny Kennedy

The Lions advance to their first NEWMAC Championship in program history.

By Tyler Foy

The Emerson women’s soccer team made history on Thursday night, beating Babson in the NEWMAC semifinals to propel the Lions to its first conference championship match.

Riding on the team bus to No. 2 Babson (14-4-1 overall, 7-2-1 conference), the No. 3 Lions (11-3-5, 6-1-3) reflected on the 0-0 draw on Oct. 8. The game plan? To score.

“We knew that this is the playoffs and you’ll have to score to move on,” senior captain Cali Bruce said. “After we played them the first time, we got a feel for their style, and sort of came more into our own. As the season progressed, we realized that we can play our way which is passing and exploiting space.”

Once the Lions’ starting 11 stepped onto Hartwell-Rogers Field, kickoff began. 

Three minutes into the match, the Lions had the first shot on goal off the foot of junior forward Brittany Righetti. Though saved, Emerson pressed on and claimed a free kick in dangerous territory.

Senior captain Cali Bruce stood tall on the crease of the penalty box and sent a free kick on the ground that blazed past the Babson defenders and landed in the bottom left of the goal, putting the Lions up 1-0 in the 6th minute.

“They were leaving a gap in between them, their goalkeeper, and the near post so I looked at [sophomore midfielder] Katie [Wojcik] and I was like, I think I’m just gonna shoot it low and hard,” Bruce said. “It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be exactly what it needs to be.”

The Beavers attempted to rally back, frequently penetrating the penalty area and getting good looks at goal. Off-target, off the crossbar, or safely in the hands of sophomore goalkeeper Amara Schaub, the Lions were feeling the pressure.

But while the Beavers were playing high up on the pitch, their back line of defenders left an opening for a Lions’ counterattack. Senior midfielder Ainslee MacQuarrie split the center backs with a pass to Righetti which she rifled past the goalie to extend the lead to 2-0.

Although it wouldn’t be easy for the Lions, as the Beavers stormed back, netting two goals in five minutes to equalize — the tying goal being off an Emerson player. 

Babson and Emerson traded corners with the Beavers claiming more chances. The Lions took advantage of their opportunities in the 44th minute when sophomore midfielder Lauren Carlson flew the ball from the corner flag, finding the right boot of sophomore defender Yoshiko Slater to put Emerson in the lead, 3-2, prior to halftime to give the team comfort.

“It’s basically a 1-0 game,” Bruce said. “We played many 1-0 games, we can hold them and it was pure confidence for us.”

With a heavy offensive showing from both teams, the Lions decided to stick to their game plan and force their opponent to make errors.

“We really kept to our game plan and that’s something that we tried to do is to make teams adjust to us, not us adjust to them,” said Bruce.

After going blow-for-blow, the team’s defenses started making more interceptions and tackles to narrow the opportunities. The Beavers continued to win corners, but Schaub had good hands between the posts, making a pivotal save in the 70th minute to keep the Lions up.

A scoreless second half of inspiring defense led to the Lions holding on to the one-goal lead and advancing to the NEWMAC Championship. Bruce said the shot at the title is a testament to the growth of the program.

“I was just so happy and so proud,” she said. “It means a lot for the culture of sports at Emerson and our team. Our success in recruiting and in our confidence individually as players. It was a really special moment getting to celebrate it alongside my best friends and my teammates.”

The Lions play in the Championship match on Rotch Field at 2 p.m. Saturday against No. 4 Clark who beat Emerson 2-0 on Oct. 19.