strongAngus Dickerson/Beacon Correspondent
Amber Bigwood slid a pass from the end line out in front of the near post where a charging Meghan Foehl drove it in from a couple yards out. The senior captain’s goal knotted the score at one, and again gave the Emerson women’s soccer team a final last chance.
But the Lions couldn’t maintain their momentum. Suffolk scored with just over nine minutes remaining in the first half when Emerson goalie Allie Altman misplayed a shot, allowing Suffolk’s Leslie Hayden to tap in the loose ball. There was nothing flukey about Suffolk’s next goal, however, as Gabrielle Balestrier blasted one in from the top of the box a mere 33 seconds later.
The Lions’ hopes were dashed, as was their season, as Suffolk went on to win 4-2.
This marks the first time the team has missed the playoffs since 1997, when the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) only had eight women’s soccer teams, with only four making the post season. In 1999, the conference expanded to 11 teams, and the top eight qualified for the playoffs. There are now 14 teams in conference.
Emerson needed a win on Saturday to have any chance of making the GNAC playoffs. A 3-1 deficit at halftime had the team on the ropes. Foehl, playing on Senior Day in what could have been her last college soccer game, was not ready to give up on the season.
“I tried to get everyone a little more pumped up, because, I mean, at halftime there’s still 45 minutes to play,” Foehl said after the game. “Everyone was a little nervous. I think that was the halftime energy.”
That anxiety was apparent early in the second half. Suffolk came out with confidence. Emerson struggled to maintain even momentary possession on its opponent’s side of the field. Gradually though, the Lions pushed back.
With 19 minutes to play, Emerson’s Kara Pantano broke through, firing a shot past the keeper — just inside the left post — pulling Emerson back within a goal. The surge of energy from the team was mirrored by the larger than average home crowd that showed up at Rotch Field to cheer on their Lions for Family Weekend.
The next 17 minutes were the most intense of the game. Emerson attacked with all the passion of a team trying to save its season. But for the Lions, the increased pressure couldn’t create another goal. The offense-intensive strategy created a few opportunities, but eventually the shift away from defense helped the Rams score again with just under two minutes remaining, putting the game out of reach.
The 4-2 loss kept Emerson out of the playoffs. The Lions finish at 5-6-1 in the GNAC, and 6-9-1 overall.
“I think there are a couple of games [this season] where the result could have been different, including today,” said head coach David Suvak. “I think one or two more wins would have been a clearer picture of our abilities.”
The coach also expressed his optimism about next year and said he’s already begun recruiting new players. Emerson will only lose two players to graduation.
Those players are senior captains Foehl and Carmen Trobaugh, who were honored in a short ceremony before the game.
“The only regret I have is that I only got to play under Suvak for two years,” Foehl said. “He’s seriously the best coach I think I’ve ever played with. He cares about this program so much.”
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