NORTON, Mass., November 4, 2006 - The third-seeded Smith College women's soccer team will make a return to its second New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament title game in three seasons, as the Pioneers engineered a 2-1 victory over defending tourney champion and second-seeded Springfield College during Saturday afternoon's second semifinal at Wheaton College's Mirrione Stadium.
Smith will face host and top-seeded Wheaton College tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 p.m. in a rematch of the 2004 title game. The Pioneers, who improved to 11-6-1 overall while going unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 matches, seeks their inaugural NEWMAC Tournament crown and first conference championship since 1996. The Pride, which is ranked seventh regionally by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), had its four-match winning streak snapped and fell to 12-5 on the season.
With all of today's match scoring taking place in the opening half, Smith took advantage of its limited opportunities as the visitors tallied on their only two shots of the first stanza to overcome an early, 1-0 deficit. Pioneer freshman Dalyn Houser picked up the unassisted game-winner with her team-leading seventh goal of the season, driving a shot from the top of the box into the back of the net at 29:40.
SC opened the scoring just 11:03 into regulation when senior midfielder Michelle Bongiovanni (West Springfield, Mass.) headed home sophomore back Delaney Cantrall's (Santa Paula, Calif.) corner kick. Just under two minutes later, Smith responded with the game-tying marker, as freshman Hailey Bird received a cross from junior Janine Olthuis, who found a charging Bird on the near post to finish the play.
In the second half, the Pride had the better of the offensive chances after outshooting Smith, 9-1, but SC wasn't able to find the equalizer. The Pride had a couple of corner kicks in the stanza, but Smith's defense cleared both attempts and held on for the win.
Smith sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Bachtel picked up a trio of saves in each half for the victory, while SC junior goalie Amanda Petri (East Granby, Conn.) did not have any stops. The Pride finished the contest with a 15-3 advantage in shots and 4-3 edge in corner kicks.