Babson Park, Mass. – November 6, 2011 – Springfield College first-year goalie Brett Bascom made six saves to earn Most Outstanding Player honors as the second-seeded Pride edged top-seeded Babson, 4-3, in penalty kicks after a 1-1 double-overtime tie in the championship game of the 2011 New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Men’s Soccer Tournament at Babson’s Hartwell-Rogers Field on Sunday afternoon. It was the first NEWMAC Championship since 1999 for Springfield (10-4-4), which also secured the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Ranked second in New England by the NCAA and 12th in the country by the NSCAA, Babson (15-2-3) saw its string of three straight NEWMAC titles come to an end, although the programs conference unbeaten streak was extended to 32 games (28-0-4). The Beavers still stand an excellent chance of joining Springfield in the NCAA Tournament via an at-large bid when the tourney field is announced on Monday.
Springfield nearly struck first less than six minutes into the contest, as junior Jake Miskin found space at the top of the box and ripped a shot toward the upper right corner. However, Babson senior goalie Peter Crowley made a spectacular leaping save to tip the shot over the crossbar at 5:40.
Later in the first, Babson junior Ayo Iwuagwu had his team’s first great scoring chance when took the ball from a defender deep in the Springfield zone. The junior forward then broke on alone on Bascom, but the rookie keeper came charging out of net to knock it away just in time to prevent a shot attempt at 26:30.
The Beavers netted the game’s first goal late in the opening period, beginning with a short corner from senior Salomon Guindi to sophomore Thomas Elbling on the right side. Elbling then sent a cross deep into the box, where junior Eric Anderson headed it past a lunging Bascom for his league-leading 12th goal of the year at 41:08.
Babson threatened to double its lead on a blast by sophomore Mike Fisher early in the second half, but Bascom was able to tip it over the crossbar to keep it a 1-0 affair at 55:25. The Pride then increased their offensive pressure at the other end, nearly tying the game when junior Danny Amatos screened shot through a crowd in front was deflected and corralled by Crowley at 63:18.
Springfield finally pulled even at 65:56, thanks to a brilliant solo effort by first-year Kevin Nowak. The Pride rookie collected the ball at midfield, made a long run past a defender, and then launched a perfect shot from 20 yards out over the outstretched hands of Crowley and just under the crossbar for his team-best fifth goal of the season.
From there, the game featured one heart-stopping moment after another as the two teams battled down the stretch with the league championship at stake. Babson had the best chance to regain the lead in regulation when Fisher hit a shot from the right side through a crowd and toward the lower left corner with three minutes to go. However, Bascom made the save of the season when he lunged to his right and made a tremendous one-handed deflection to keep the ball out of the net. Iwuagwu then had a chance to score on the ensuing rebound, but his bid from five yards out hit the left post and was successfully cleared off the line by a defender.
The drama continued in overtime, as Fisher once again looked to give Babson the victory. With the ball being batted around the box, the sophomore midfielder headed a shot from the left side toward the far upper corner, but the ball hit the right post and fell into the waiting arms of Bascom at 94:30. Springfield then had three shots on net in the final 4:11 of the first OT, but Crowley made clean catches on bids by sophomore Ryan Malone and Amato and then batted down a rocket off the foot of junior Alex Reilly from close range near the left end line with 15 seconds left to keep the game scoreless through the first 100 minutes of play.
Neither team made a strong threat in the second overtime session, with Babson senior Ryan Obolewicz header off a cross at the top of the box floating wide left and Springfield sophomore Drew Vanasses shot from near midfield falling harmlessly into the waiting arms of Crowley. The contest then officially ended in a 1-1 tie, and the two teams went to penalty kicks to determine the conference champion.
Springfield junior back-up goalkeeper Chris Walton came on for the shootout and wasted little time in coming up with a gigantic play, as he made a diving save to deny Anderson’s bid on the Beavers’ first PK attempt. Amato then made good on the Pride’s first kick to give his team a 1-0 advantage after round one.
The Beavers’ evened the score in the second round, as senior captain Max Walker converted his attempt and Springfield’s follow-up attempt hit the post. However, the Pride regained the lead in round three, with the hosts hitting the crossbar on their kick and sophomore Michael Fowler converting his attempt to give Springfield a 2-1 edge.
Both teams scored in round four, as Babson rookie Brenden Matthews buried his shot and Reilly slid his attempt into the corner. The Beavers then knotted it at 3-3 when Guindi powered his team’s final kick off Walton’s outstretched hand and in, but the Pride clinched the championship when Miskin ripped the final kick of the game into the corner for a 4-3 PK victory.