BABSON PARK, Mass. – Springfield sophomore Kevin Nowak's goal in the 20th minute proved to be the game winner as the third seeded Pride upset the second seeded Bears in the NEWMAC semifinal match this afternoon hosted at Babson College.
Nowak broke the scoreless tie when he settled a bouncing ball in the box off a free kick from junior Michael Fowler. Nowak gathered the ball with a step of space, took a single touch and sent a shot over the outstretched arms of Coast Guard goalie Richie Burns, notching his fourth goal of the season and giving Springfield the early 1-0 lead.
Springfield dominated possession and had the better scoring chances throughout the first half. In the sixth minute sophomore Zach Dutter lofted a looping header towards the top corner of the Coast Guard goal, forcing Burns to make a diving save, punching the ball just over the crossbar. Seven minutes later Nowak snuck behind the Bears back line, barely staying onsides, but had his shot roll just wide of the far post as Burns made an aggressive sliding challenge twelve yards out on the right side of the box.
Coast Guard finally put some offensive pressure on Springfield with six minutes left in the half. Junior John Rendon sent a cross into the center of the Pride box in which junior Matt Epperly was able to just get a piece of it with his head. Epperly got a second chance with the ball as he intercepted the Springfield clearing attempt but his shot was blocked to out of bounds to the near side of the net. The Bears had another scoring opportunity on the ensuing corner kick, but Pride goalie Billy Schmid punched the ball out of the zone with a sweeping fist, sending Springfield into halftime with a one goal lead.
Majority of possession switched in the second half as Coast Guard was able to control most of the play, but was unable to garner many scoring threats. Their best chances came in the 57th minute as the Bears had three consecutive corners, all of which were turned away by Springfield's back line.
In the 71st minute, Burns received a yellow card when he made contact in the box with a streaking Fowler, giving the Pride a penalty kick. Freshman Ryan McAdoo tucked his shot into the lower right corner for his first goal of the season, giving Springfield an insurance goal in the waning minutes of the second half.
The Bears continued to press in the Springfield half of the field and nearly cut the lead in half when Rendon ripped a shot from just outside the box that sailed just wide of the left post. Moments later, the Bears failed to convert on another corner kick when Schmid made a leaping save on the cross.
This was the second upset of the day as MIT upended Babson in penalty kicks in the first semifinal match. Springfield returns to the NEWMAC Championship game looking to secure their second consecutive conference championship. The two teams will square off tomorrow at 1:00p at Babson.
"Today was a tough day for us," said Coast Guard head coach Chris Parsons. "We fell behind against a team that is very difficult ot break down. We continued to improve as the game went on, but in the end the equalizer didn't come. It's disappointing, but hopefully we will continue to play into next week in the ECAC's."
Coast Guard, 11-6-1 overall, will await word on a berth to the ECAC Division III New England tournament with the berths being announced on Monday.