Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – The top-seeded Elms College women's soccer team punched their ticket to the NCAA Division III Women's Soccer National Championship tournament after defeating visiting second-seeded Lesley University, 4-2, in the New England Collegiate Conference Championship match at Leary Field Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Blazers (18-3-1) captured their third NECC Championship title, and first since the 2011 season, and will play in the First Round of the NCAA Division III Women's Soccer National Championship next weekend. Reigning four-time championship Lesley University wraps up the 2016 campaign with a 15-5-2 record.
The Lynx pressured the Blazers early, maintaining possession in the Elms zone with a pair of shots. In the 12th minute of play, Lesley was whistled for a foul, and on the ensuing free kick, the Lynx attempted to clear the loose ball, but Elms junior Brie Voight (Springfield, Mass.) pounced on the failed clear and deposited a shot into the back of the net, staking the Blazers to a 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Lesley found the equalizer as a shot rang off the crossbar and Lynx sophomore Jordan Mitchell (Sachse, Texas) tucked the rebound past Elms freshman goalkeeper Rebecca Molin (West Hartford, Conn.) to even the match at 1-1.
Less than three minutes later, Elms capitalized on a Lynx miscue, as Lesley junior goalkeeper Lilly Donovan (Newburyport, Mass.) fired a goal kick off the elbow of one of her defenders, causing the ball to ricchoted back towards the net and roll past the reach of Donovan, putting the Blazers ahead 2-1 with 26:09 remaining in the first half. The 2-1 score remained intact into the halftime break.
The Blazers came out of the break with energy and added to their advantage in the 48th minute as junior Mackenzie LaRochelle (Chicopee, Mass.) launched a cross towards the net, which Donovan challenged, but it sailed over her hands, landing at the feet of Elms junior Jackie Soucia (Belchertown, Mass.), who fought through a Lynx defender and slipped a shot into the open net, extending the Blazers lead to 3-1.
Elms netted an insurance goal in the 59th minute as LaRochelle connected with Soucia again on a cross to the front of the net, giving Soucia her second tally of the day and a 4-1 lead for the Blazers. The Lynx added their final strike in the 63rd minute as junior Maddy Kelly (San Jose, Calif.) knocked in a corner kick service from junior Karlie Rubin (San Diego, Calif.).
The sides finished even in the shot column with 11 shots apiece. Molin made two saves in the win, while Donovan stopped four shots for Lesley.
Soucia was named Tournment MVP after posting three goals and three assists in three matches. Voight, sophomore Kelsey Shea (Belchertown, Mass.), and junior Silvana Tellerico (Southington, Conn.) were selected to the 2016 All-Tournament Team.
"It's amazing and almost surreal to be [NECC] Champions," said Elms College Head Coach Sean Milbier. "We knew coming into preseason that we had a special team. We worked so hard and trained so well, and we don't call ourselves a team here, we call ourselves a family. In the beginning today, we were a little too hyped up, we needed to even out and Lesley took it to us early, but another word that describes this team is resiliency, and we dug in, figure it out, and scored a beautiful goal by Brie Voight. Lesley responded, but we just kept working hard, and I'm proud of the effort. We settled down in the second half, got [Leary Field] beneath our feet, and played our game and scored some big-time goals. Jackie [Soucia] worked so hard, and I'm so proud that she was MVP, she's a great example of a women's soccer player at Elms College. Moving forward, the competition level will obviously go up, and we are happy to be there now, but we are going to train hard all week and expect to go somewhere and give a team a fight, and hopefully come out with a win."
2016 NECC All-Tournament Team
MVP: Jackie Soucia (Elms)
Brie Voight (Elms)
Kelsey Shea (Elms)
Silvana Tellerico (Elms)
Jordan Mitchell (Lesley)
Tori Ramirez (Lesley)
Samantha Turnbull (Lesley)
McKenna Straube (Lesley)
Noelle Garcia (Regis)
Rachel Kelly (Regis)
Elena Helming (Bay Path)
Alma Rizvani (Bay Path)