BENNINGTON, Vt. — Southern Vermont College took a huge step Wednesday afternoon in earning a home playoff game in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) women's soccer postseason tournament, defeating Bay Path University 2-0 at Everett Field in the Mountaineers' final regular season home match.
SVC now sits in fourth place of the NECC standings at 5-3 (7-9 overall) while Bay Path falls to 3-12-1 on the season, 2-5-1 in league play.
With a playoff berth already secured, Southern Vermont looks to get the best seed possible with one final regular season game being played at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Regis College; a win or tie will lock up a first round home game for the Mountaineers. Bay Path concludes its regular season on Saturday with a 2 p.m. home match against Mitchell College.
The Wildcats are currently in eighth place with the loss, one spot outside of making the tournament; BPC needs to win on Saturday against Mitchell (currently seventh) to get into the postseason action.
The Mountaineers saw two outstanding chances in the opening six minutes but were unable to capitalize on either opportunity. Less than one minute after kickoff, SVC freshman Victoria Huff (Schuylerville, New York) made a great run down the left side with the ball before going at goal through open space; her shot went just wide, however, crossing the face of the goal to go a tad right. About five minutes later, Southern Vermont saw its second good look to go the wayside when sophomore Lauren Nesshoever (Rutland, Vermont) ran on to a great over-the-top pass behind the Wildcat defense and went one-on-one at Bay Path sophomore keeper Alma Rizvani (Prospect, Connecticut); Nesshoever couldn't put the ball on net, sending her shot wide of the frame to keep the score knotted at 0-0.
Outside of the few runs by the Mountaineers, BPC possessed and worked the ball in the SVC end of the field, taking the low-percentage looks it had from outside of the penalty area. None of those were too dangerous until there was about 26 minutes to go in the half. Wildcat sophomore Ashley Fricke (Ware, Massachusetts) brought the ball down the left side of the field before firing a shot towards the far post; making the safe play, SVC freshman goalie Melissa Mascari (Saratoga Springs, New York) chose not to see if the ball would wind up on frame and left her feet to make the diving save.
SVC had the first sterling chance of the second stanza about 10 minutes into the half, one that was turned away by an outstanding save by Rizvani. Mountaineer senior captain Lixsa Arlet Sandoval(Stockton, California) had the ball on her feet in the middle of the field, 20 yards outside of the Bay Path penalty area, and subsequently took the opportunity to use a nice dribbling performance to maneuver around the Wildcat defenders before having an open look from just outside the top of the box. Sandoval unleashed a well-placed shot headed for the top of the goal, but the 5'3 Rizvani got up in the air enough to deflect the ball over the crossbar, preserving the 0-0 stalemate.
The next 15 minutes of action saw a lot of back-and-forth transition with neither side able to get a solid look at net in the sloppy conditions as the rain started to pick up. Finally, in the 71st minute, SVC broke through to the scoreboard to take a 1-0 lead. The Mountaineers worked into the Bay Path box on the attack, trying to possess the slick ball on the wet grass; SVC sophomore Melodie Orrell (Gloucester, Massachusetts) played a through ball between the BPC defenders to Nesshoever who went one-on-one at Rizvani. As the Wildcat keeper got off her line and attempted to slide and corral the ball, Nesshoever's touch was tipped through the goalie's hands to open space, allowing the Mountaineer to run on and bang home her 11th goal of the season for the go-ahead tally.
Trying to notch an equalizer with time running low, Bay Path made a tactical move to take Rizvani out of net and have her play the field, putting sophomore Shianna Silvia (Warwick, Rhode Island) between the pipes. That decision would not pay off for the Wildcats, however, as their only offensive push in the remaining five minutes after the switch resulted in an offside call for the visitors.
Southern Vermont retained the 1-0 advantage until the final 20 seconds when the Mountaineers made one more push up the field, trying to secure the victory with a piece of insurance. Orrell darted down the pitch, racing Silvia to a free-kicked ball in open space outside of the box; the Bay Path keeper was first to it, but her clear attempt went right off Orrell who had put her hands up to protect her face. The referees deemed that there was no deliberate handling of the ball as Orrell continued her run into the box, easily slipping in her fifth of the year on the open net to seal the deal.
Mascari improves to 7-9 in goal for Southern Vermont, making four saves for her fourth shutout of the season. Rizvani was strapped with the loss (3-11-1), turning away one SVC shot in her 86 minutes of action.
The Mountaineers outshot Bay Path 19-7 on the day while taking a 5-4 advantage on corner kicks awarded.
SVC avenges a 1-0 loss at Bay Path from last year, although the Wildcats still own a 6-3 all-time series advantage despite the loss.