CHICOPEE, Mass. – Elms College junior forward Kayla Narey (South Hadley, Mass.) netted her second goal of the game with just 28 seconds left in regulation to lift the second-seeded Blazers to a thrilling 5-4 victory over No. 3 Becker College in Thursday evening's New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship tournament semifinal field hockey game at Leary Field.
With the win, Elms improves to 8-11 overall, totaling its most wins since the 1994 season. The Blazers have clinched a berth in the NECC Championship title game on Saturday afternoon at top-seed Anna Maria College (13-7) at 1:00 p.m. The AMCATS posted a 3-1 victory over No. 4 Wheelock College in Thursday's other semifinal game to earn their spot in the championship game. Becker concludes its season 4-14 overall.
With the score knotted at 4-4 following a brilliant goal by Becker's Michelle Griczika (Barre, Mass.) on a long pass from Cameron Rogers (Granby, Conn.) in the 59th minute of play, Narey delivered her heroics 10 minutes later. Narey corralled a loose ball just inside the circle and fired in the game-winner with just 28 seconds to play in regulation.
Becker drew first blood when Brittany Cormier (Danbury, Conn.) scored on a pass from Brooke Cote (Fitchburg, Mass.) two minutes into the game to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. Elms, which outshot Becker 18-4 in the first 35 minutes, evened the game at 1-1 at the 23:56 mark when sophomore midfielder Hannah O'Brien (Granby, Conn.) scored on a pass from sophomore forward Emma Morgan (Wakefield, R.I.).
Freshman forward Kristina Kopyscinski (Agawam, Mass.) then connected for a sensational between-the-legs goal on a tipped pass from sophomore forward Jaclyn Soderquist (Enfield, Conn.) to push the Blazers ahead, 2-1 with 2:30 to play in the opening frame.
The second half featured an even pace from both sides as the Blazers narrowly outshot Becker 11-10, as both teams found the back of the cage three times.
Jessica Wheelahan (Watertown, Conn.) drove in a goal in the 38th minute of play to tie the game at 2-2, and Kopyscinski answered five minutes later with her second marker of the game on a feed from Narey.
Trailing 3-2, Griczika netted a goal at the 47:58 mark to send the game to a third stalemate and highlight a three-goal stretch in just 18 minutes of second half action.
Stellar passing in the circle from Elms' junior midfielder Brianna Lyons (Canton, Mass.) and sophomore forward Meghan Goodrow (Sunderland, Mass.) allowed Narey to deposit her first goal of the game into the cage in the 56th minute before Rogers found Griczika with her long pass three minutes later to set the score at 4-4 and setting the stage for the Blazers' dramatic finish.
Narey finished with seven shots on net and Kopyscinski added five shots on target, while the Hawks used four shots on goal from Griczika and three each from Cote and Cormier.
Becker goalkeeper Gabrielle Gallo (Northport, N.Y.) turned away 16 shots in defeat, while Blazers' senior net-minder Alexandra Bonavita (Agawam, Mass.) made eight stops to help lift Elms to its first NECC Championship tournament title game since the inaugural championship in 2008.