WORCESTER, Mass. - Junior Ali Maldonado (Rutland, Mass.) scored the game's only goal five and a half minutes into the second overtime period Sunday afternoon as the Worcester State University women's soccer team defeated Bridgewater State University in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship at Coughlin Field.
With the win, Worcester State improves to 11-7-2 overall on the season, and earn the MASCAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Bridgewater State's season ends with a record of 12-9-0.
The Lancers and Bears played a chess match in the opening 45 minutes, with neither team holding a decided advantage. Worcester State outshot the Bears by a narrow margin of 9-7, but both goaltenders, Worcester State's Ashley Spellman (Lancaster, Mass.) and Bridgewater State's Kellie Souza (Wilmington, Mass.) were up to the task.
The second half was all Lancers, as Worcester State held a 13-4 edge in shots and 8-1 advantage in corner kicks. Worcester State had a handful of golden opportunities, most notably on a Maldonado breakaway in the 76th minute. After eluding a defender, Maldonado walked in alone on Souza, but the senior goalkeeper denied Maldonado not once, but twice from point blank to keep the game scoreless. Souza finished regulation with 12 saves.
Momentum swung in Bridgewater State's favor in the first overtime period, as the Bears outshot the Lancers 5-2, but Spellman stood tall with three saves to force a second extra session. Bridgewater's best chance came in the 99th minute, when leading scorer Alana Vincent (Taunton, Mass.) broke loose in the box, but Spellman made a beautiful kick save to keep the Lancers alive.
Midway through a tight second overtime period, Maldonado finally ended the goal drought to punch Worcester State's ticket to the NCAA Tournament. On a ball played forward by freshman Haley Ferrin (North Attleboro, Mass.), Maldonado made one move to elude a defender and get the ball to her right foot, and fired a low shot into the bottom left corner of the net past a stunned and frozen Souza to clinch the championship. The goal was Maldonado's team-leading 14th of the season, while Ferrin was credited with her third assist.
After the game, Maldonado was crowned the Tournament Most Valuable Player with four goals in three games, and at least one in each game.
Worcester State's opponent in the NCAA Tournament will be announced on the NCAA Selection Show on Monday at 1 p.m. on NCAA.com, with a first round game to be played on Friday at a time and location to be announced.