Cambridge, Mass. – By virtue of a 3-1 penalty kick shootout victory, the #3 ranked MIT Engineers woman's soccer team has advanced to the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament semi-final round, toppling the 6th seeded Wellesley Blue in the process on Tuesday at Roberts Field.
The Engineers and Blue have played to almost four hours of scoreless soccer this season. The two teams drew nil-nil on October 19th in Wellesley and again in Cambridge a goal could not be found through 90 minutes and two overtime periods. This time however, in the first round of the NEWMAC tournament, an outcome needed to be determined.
It was a game that showcased two superb goalkeepers. Sarah Gray made five saves for Wellesley, as did MIT's Meghan Wright, who earned her school record 12th shutout. It was no surprise that the contest would rest on the shoulders of the net minders as it came down to penalty kicks.
Alisha Lussiez was first to deliver in the shootout for the Engineers, and she beat Gray high and to the right. Defender Andrea Park also went high and her shot hit the underside of the crossbar before re-directing downwards and into the goal. Emily Kuo slammed home her attempt to put the hosts up another goal.
The Blue did not have a dream start to the alternating shot shootout competition, in which they shot first. Emily Wilson put the ball over the bar and Megan Turchi's low shot was saved by Wright before Chelsea-Ann Patry connected to pull the Blue back within one. Needing to score to keep the game alive, Amanda Young ricocheted her shot off of underneath the crossbar, much like Park's had, but the referee signaled that hers had not crossed the goal line on its way down. The miss sealed the shootout final and the celebration was on for MIT.
Chances were few in the first half of the game, but the pitch opened up as the second half wore on into the extra frames. Wellesley forward Ariel Chao was dangerous running behind the defense all day, and as the overtime periods drew to a close, she had several attempts snuffed out by the back-line of the Engineers, led by Park, and the stalwart keeping of Wright.
MIT's sophomore goalie was particularly good down the stretch, pouncing on anything that came into the goalie box and squelching several Wellesley breaks with plays that would not be counted as saves, but were game-saving nonetheless.
The Engineers' best chances came from set pieces in the second half. From a free kick at the edge of the box, Park barely missed a breaking Michaelann Rodriguez and Lauren Hernley at the back post. Tech won the only corner of the game with six and a half minutes remaining and Park delivered a searching ball that Hernley got a foot on but could only poke agonizingly over the bar. Lussiez was also unable to connect with teammates on several breaks in the last fifteen minutes.The Engineers, now 13-3-2 (6-2-1 NEWMAC) will play Babson College on Saturday at 3:00 PM in Springfield. The Beavers beat Tech 1-0 on Saturday to leapfrog them in the standings and earn the bye into next weekend's game.
Wellesley ends their season with a record of 7-8-3, and a 4-3-2 mark in the conference.