Emerson’s women’s soccer team claimed the first home conference playoff win in school history by beating the Babson College Beavers 1-0 on Tuesday.
Junior forward Veronica Alberts scored the game’s lone goal in the 18th minute to secure Emerson’s spot in the semifinals of the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference playoffs. Senior forward Jess Frost played a long ball over the top of the Babson backline, which Alberts let bounce before chesting the ball down and firing her first touch past the Beaver’s goalkeeper Kayla Salmon. Alberts said the goal resulted from practicing with Frost.
“It’s funny because when we’ve been practicing, I love getting balls on the ground and Jess loves playing them in the air,” Alberts said. “She played one in the air, and I somehow just felt so calm and composed, just settled it and then just shot. [It’s] definitely something we’ve been practicing on—composure in front of the goal—and I’m glad it paid off.”
Following Alberts’s goal, Emerson increased the pressure on Babson, with Alberts and senior forward Paige Haley both making dangerous runs into the penalty box. Babson came close to equalizing in the 34th minute but came up short after sophomore defender Amanda Benavente cleared a shot off the goal line and freshman goalkeeper Megan Rose scooped up the loose ball after a rebound shot by the Beavers.
Babson came out much stronger for the second half on the offensive side and dominated possession throughout the half. Despite the Beavers earning two corner kicks and four offensive free kicks in the second half, the Lions managed to hold on with several strong defensive clearances and up close saves by Rose—who ended the night with five saves.
Head coach David Suvak said his team did a great job withstanding Babson’s late onslaught.
“I’m happy that they withstood the storm that they were throwing at us—it looked a little frantic to me—and that storm is important to withstand,” Suvak said. “ I think we’ve learned to do things like that because our two halves were totally different halves. We played an excellent possession game of soccer in the first half and then it switched over—Babson had more of the game flow and we were holding on.”
One pivotal moment in the second half came when senior defender Alexandra Hanson left the game with a head injury after being hit in the face with a ball from teammate Rachel Lord. Freshman defender Cameran Cruz replaced Hanson on the left side of the defense, a crucial area in the game as Babson’s Jessica Fernandes—who scored seven goals this season—gave the Lions trouble on the left flank throughout the game. However, Cruz—who only featured in five games prior to this matchup—shut down Fernandes for the remainder of the game and even managed to make some offensive contributions. Suvak said Cruz was the perfect match for Fernandes.
“[Fernandes] is an excellent, super-dangerous attacker for Babson,” Suvak said. “I feel Cameran has the ability as a young player to compete at this level, and I felt really confident that she could match her speed, and I think she had the right aggressiveness to meet the challenges with that player in particular.”
After the final whistle, the women’s soccer team celebrated with fans—including Emerson President M. Lee Pelton. The Emerson Athletics website listed the official attendance of the game at 200. Suvak expressed how important it was to have a solid turnout at the home game.
“I was concerned that we weren’t going to have that excitement around this type of game and that we might have the Babson fans overwhelming our own home field,” Suvak said. “Listening to our own home fans root our team on and I think it was very motivational for the players. I think it was amazing.”
Suvak said he was proud the team achieved the goal of earning its first playoff win after having such a successful regular season.
“This team has worked really hard at competing and learning to compete at a high level and we were trying to earn ourselves a home field playoff match and we were all really excited to do this,” Suvak said. “Beating Babson tonight, which are a very good team, we all knew it was going to be hard doing it twice in one year, and they are a very talented group of players, I’m glad we were successful in the end.”
Alberts said she’s excited the team earned the historic win.
“Everyone wanted to go past the first round and it’s awesome to give our seniors,” Alberts said. “I thought we all just hustled until the end, and we didn’t let those last corners go through which was awesome. We played like it was our last game because we didn’t know if we were going to have another.”
With this victory, Emerson advances to the semifinals of the NEWMAC playoffs and will face No. 2 seed Springfield College—a rematch of the women’s soccer team’s first NEWMAC playoff appearance the 2016 quarterfinals. The game will take place on Nov. 1 in Springfield at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to the conference championship.