BENNINGTON, Vt. – The Bay Path University women's soccer team won its first New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) playoff game since 2013 Saturday afternoon as the fifth-seeded Wildcats topped the hosting No. 4 Southern Vermont College Mountaineers 3-2 at Everett Field.
BPU scored first in the later stages of the opening half, only to have it answered by SVC three minutes later for a 1-1 tie to be brought into the break. The Wildcats put home two goals in a six-minute stretch in the latter half of the second period, forcing Southern Vermont to play the final 12 minutes down a pair.
As the Mountaineers pushed to cut the deficit, they got the fortune of an own goal by Bay Path off a corner kick with just 1:04 left on the clock. That would be the closest SVC could get, however, as the visitors held off Southern Vermont in the final seconds to close out the victory.
The Mountaineers finish the 2016 campaign with an overall record of 8-7-3 while BPU improves to 10-6 with the win. The Wildcats will next visit top-seeded Elms College Wednesday night for a semifinal showdown.
Bay Path junior Elena Helming (Maplewood, N.J.) and senior Alma Rizvani (Prospect, Conn.) each had a goal and an assist in the triumph while sophomore Jailinne Ruiz (Hadley, Mass.) knocked in what proved to be the game winner.
Southern Vermont's regular-play tally came off the foot of freshman Taylor Mallett (Berwick, Maine), senior Kelsey Hamister (Vallejo, Calif.) garnering the assist as the goal came off a rebound from her shot.
BPU freshman keeper Caitlyn Esposito (East Haven, Conn.) came up with seven saves in the win (8-4) as Southern Vermont junior goalie Melissa Mascari (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) turned away a pair of Wildcat shots in the loss (8-7-3).
The victory was Bay Path's second over the Mountaineers in just four days and the team's third straight overall.
SVC had one of the better chances by either side in the opening 35 minutes of action when a Hamister cross from the right side bounced through the box; Mountaineer freshman Taylor Jarosz (Troy, N.Y.) got on the end of it and let a shot rip from 10 yards out, but Esposito came up with the big-time diving save to keep the match scoreless.
The 0-0 stalemate lasted until the 36th minute which was when the Wildcats got into the back of the net first. The ball was played from the left side of the pitch down to the right corner where Rizvani was able to track it down and make a move on the goal line to beat her defender; the senior carried it towards the frame before converting on the tough angle, slipping it past the SVC keeper and into the cage for her second goal of the year.
The marginal advantage would be short-lived, however, as Mallett registered an equalizer just shy of three minutes later. Southern Vermont was awarded a free kick from about 30 yards out on the left edge of the field, and Hamister decided to play a low drive towards the near post off the set piece; Esposito dropped down and kept the initial take out the net, but the rebound found Mallett six yards away for an easy slam-- that being her ninth goal of the year.
Esposito turned away another good Hamister free kick with 2:06 to play in the half as the game went to intermission deadlocked at 1-1.
That score stood until the 73rd minute when Helming put her team on top with her eighth of the season. Rizvani won the ball at the center line and carried it deep into SVC territory before playing a nice through pass into the top of the box; Helming took one touch to goal and slotted home the go-ahead score with a final tip past Mascari.
Bay Path would add an insurance goal 5:41 later, a pivotal score that would end up being the difference maker. With the SVC backline pulled up halfway through its own end, Helming played a ball from the middle of the field down to open space in the right side of the penalty area. Ruiz chased it down and got a sliding shot off just before Mascari could corral it, the Wildcat's 14th of the year making it a 3-1 upper hand for the visitors in the 79th minute.
With time waning, Southern Vermont had to play with urgency as the end of its season loomed. The Mountaineers earned a corner kick from the right side of the field with just under two minutes left on the clock, and the ball soared towards the back post off the foot of freshman Ashley Blom (Manorville, N.Y.); a Bay Path defender accidentally knocked it in, giving the hosts hope heading into the final minute. It would be dashed, however, as the Wildcats prevented SVC from making any final attacks and celebrated their playoff victory.
– #LetsGoSVC –