Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – The Elms College women's soccer team defeated visiting Regis College, 2-1, in their semifinal match of the New England Collegiate Conference Championship at Leary Field Thursday evening. The Blazers advance to play in their second straight NECC Championship game.
Less than five minutes into the opening half, the Blazers cracked the scoreboard as sophomore defender Kylen O'Hearn (Somers, Conn.) played the ball up the sideline and lofted a ball towards the net, where Regis junior goalkeeper Rachel Gagnon (Ashford, Conn.) denied the initial attempt, but failed to corralled the loose ball, allowing sophomore midfielder Rachel Connell (Easthampton, Mass.) to tuck the ball inside the far post, giving the Blazers a 1-0 advantage.
The Pride knotted the game up in the 29th minute as Elms junior goalkeeper Alexa Rinaudo (Bellmore, N.Y.) challenged a cross in the box, leaving the net open. Regis senior midfielder Adena Joseph (Stoughton Mass.) tracked down the loose ball on the goal line and played a ball towards the front of the net, where, in an attempt to clear the ball, it ricchotted of freshman defender Lexi Vieria (Warren, R.I.) and into the net, tying the game at 1-1. The teams remained tied heading into the halftime.
In the 66th minute of play, O'Hearn launched a pass towards the right side of the Pride goal box, where freshman defender Angelina Estrada (Springfield, Mass.) chased down the loose ball and ripped a shot into the upper left corner of the net, regaining a 2-1 lead for the Blazers. A stout defensive effort by the Blazers backline prevent the Pride from capitalizing on surges in the final minutes, securing the 2-1 victory.
"The goal of every season is to win the championship," said Elms Head Coach Sean Milbier. "So we are now one step away. I'm very happy and proud of the effort we showed today. We did a great job of controlling the ball, connecting from the back to the front line, and I think the big thing for us is maximum effort. A 90-minute effort. We asked the team for 90 minutes today, and they gave us 90 minutes. I think right after [Regis] scored we knew that wasn't the way it was going to end. We weren't going to lose this match because of that play. It was a tough play, a tough bounce and a slick field, nobody was at fault on a play like that. Our composure on the ball was much better in the final minutes today, and just being in that situation last time, we handled it much better this time around. Southern Vermont is a good side and a very well-coached team, so they'll be tough, and of course Lesley is the top team. It will be a good match between the two tonight, and either game is going to be tough with it being a championship game."
Elms controlled the shot colum, 18-5, during the match. Rinaudo made a pair of saves for the Blazers, while Gagnon stopped six shots for the Pride.
The Blazers improved to 11-8-1 on the season, while Regis dropped to 11-6-2 overall. Elms advances to the Championship game Saturday afternoon against the winner of the match between fifth-seeded Southern Vermont and top-seeded Lesley. The highest remaining seed will host the Championship game.