BENNINGTON, Vt. – A scoreless stalemate lasted through the first 86:10 of New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) women's soccer action at Everett Field Wednesday before the visiting Bay Path University Wildcats scored what proved to be the game winner for a 1-0 victory over Southern Vermont College.
In both teams' regular season finale, BPU held a 21-12 advantage in total shots while taking a 10-5 edge in shots on goal. It would be the visitors' final attempt in the 87th minute, however, that was the difference maker.
Southern Vermont finishes the regular season at 8-6-3 overall and 5-3-1 in league play while Bay Path heads into the postseason at 9-6 after going 5-4 against the NECC.
Wednesday was a playoff preview as BPU will be back at Everett on Saturday for the league's playoff tournament, kickoff of that quarterfinal being slated for 12 p.m. SVC earned the No. 4 seed while the Wildcats will be the fifth seed in the postseason bracket.
The lone goal came from Bay Path junior Elena Helming (Maplewood, N.J.) who put home her seventh of the year, being assisted by senior Alma Rizvani (Prospect, Conn.).
Mountaineer junior goalie Melissa Mascari (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) made nine saves in the loss (8-6-3) while freshman counterpart Caitlyn Esposito (East Haven, Conn.) turned away five SVC shots in the shutout (7-4).
It took some time for the teams to shake the frigid temperatures and start getting some offensive momentum, the first 9:45 of action going without a single shot while the first take on frame didn't come until the 21:21 mark. Southern Vermont posted an 8-7 advantage in shots through the opening period, three of those Mountaineer takes being on net while Mascari only had to make one save in the half. Esposito was challenged a few times in the stanza, coming up with a couple of close-range stops with one being a rebound opportunity after an SVC free kick rang off the crossbar.
Mascari made eight saves in the 40 minutes that immediately followed the halftime break, but only one of those was especially dangerous as the Southern Vermont defense forced low-percentage shots from afar. Helming nearly got her team on the scoreboard in the 62nd minute, but her crack from 15 yards out caught the horizontal post for the 0-0 tie to carry on.
As overtime loomed, the Wildcats finally found the back of the net to break the deadlock. Rizvani worked the ball into the top of the box, drawing the attention of three Mountaineer defenders near the penalty dot. She slotted a pass to the left edge, through the SVC backline and towards the left post; Helming just beat Mascari to the loose ball and flicked it into the net before the keeper could corral it.
SVC had a decent chance in the final three minutes of regulation, but Esposito grabbed the high shot out of the air to preserve the Wildcat shutout. That would be the final Mountaineer look as BPU cleared away a late Southern Vermont corner and maintained possession through the final horn.
– #LetsGoSVC –