Babson Park, Mass. - October 22, 2011 - Springfield College's Nina Vital scored with less than two minutes into the second overtime to lead the nationally-ranked Pride to a thrilling 1-0 victory over host Babson College in a matchup of New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) unbeatens at Hartwell-Rogers Field on Saturday.
With the win, Springfield (11-3-1, 7-0-1 NEWMAC), ranked third in the region and 21st in the country, took over sole possession of first place in the conference, while Babson (11-3-2, 6-1-1 NEWMAC), ranked seventh in New England, suffered its first league defeat of the season.
The win locks up Springfield's right to host the NEWMAC Championships on the weekend of November 5-6 and also gives the Pride at least a share of the regular season title. Already holding the tiebreakers with Babson and Wheaton, if Springfied is able to defeat Mount Holyoke on Saturday, they will win the regular season outright.
Springfield had two great chances in a one-minute span late in the first half, both of which came off feeds from Vital. Junior Courtney Letourneau had the first when she took a Vital feed from deep in the left corner and blasted a shot off the crossbar from 18 yards out at 30:20. Exactly one minute later, Vital sent a short pass to junior Erica Donnelly, whose shot from 20 yards away was tipped off the crossbar by Babson senior goalie Lisa Wojnar.
The Pride continued to apply pressure in the second half, but Wojnar and sophomore midfielder Meghan Andrew each came up with huge defensive plays to keep the game scoreless. Andrew took the ball off the foot of senior Katie Mantie to prevent what would have been a wide-open shot from the penalty kick area at 61:05, and she then added a team save when she blocked a shot at the goal line just inside the left post at the 65-minute mark. Later in the period, Vital broke free behind the Babson defense and took a wide-open shot from point-blank range, but Wojnar made a spectacular one-handed save to her left to knock the ball beyond the right post at 71:42.
Springfield junior keeper Erin Greenstein also made several big plays on her end of the field. At 62:10, she punched a long cross from Babson junior Amy Festa out of the box just before it reached first-year Jessica DiPhilippo near the right post for what would have been an easy goal. Then in the opening minutes of the first overtime, she cut off a curling pass from junior Kelly Hanly intended for a wide-open DiPhilippo in nearly the same spot to prevent another prime scoring chance for the Beavers.
After neither team scored in the first extra session, Vital put the game away early in the second. After taking a pass up the middle of the field, she made a quick move on a defender at the top of the box and ripped a shot past a diving Wojnar and into the lower left corner for the game-winning marker at 101:35. It was the first goal of Vital’s Springfield College career.
Wojnar finished a valiant effort in net with eight saves, while Greenstein made four stops for the Pride.