The two defensively minded teams clashed in a second-round NCAA Division III playoff matchup at Garcelon Field on Sunday, each putting on a display of stifling defense, superb goaltending and gritty play through the midfield.

In each team’s lowest-scoring effort of the season, Springfield shoveled one more goal across the line than Bates, and the Pride walked off the turf at Garcelon Field with a 3-2 win over the Bobcats.

“I was expecting it to be low-scoring,” Springfield coach Kristen Mullady said. “Both teams are very solid defensively.”

“I think we knew that Springfield had a very good defense, they’d played some lower-scoring games this year,” Bates coach Brett Allen said. “We play some lower-scoring games every now and then, too. But 3-2 is a bit lower than what you’d expect.”

Bates had allowed just 109 goals in 17 games this season, an average of 6.41 per game against.

“Our goals against average this year is just over six and in the top 10 in the country, so you have to figure if we can hold them to our average, we have a good chance to win,” Allen said. “For whatever reason, today, the shots weren’t falling for us. They got one more to go than we did.”

Not to be outdone, the Pride only allowed 130 goals in 20 games through Saturday afternoon’s first-round win over Bridgewater State, a sparkling 6.5 goals-against average.

One big reason Springfield’s continued success this season — and its win Sunday — is keeper Gabby Anderson. She stood tall against a pair of Bates chances in the waning minutes of the contest to preserve the win.

“(Anderson) keeps getting better with every game, and she came into the game confident,” Mullady said. “The defensive unit played well, and cause some shots she was able to save. She absolutely stepped up today.”

At the other end, Hannah Jeffrey capped a stellar four-year career at Bates with a performance befitting her first-team all-conference selection.

“Hannah has been one of the best goalies in the country since her first year,” Allen said. “She’s gotten better every year, and this was a benchmark year in a lot of respects. She led the country in save percentage. And stats are nice, because it supports all of the work that goes into playing the position well. But she’s just really good at figuring out and knowing how the offense wants to play and what they’re trying to do, and she sets herself up to anticipate shots before they happen.”

The one that eluded her for the game-winner in Sunday’s second half came off the stick of pride midfielder Ann Mahoney, who converted in tight with 6:10 to play for her second of the game and 22nd of the season.

“She’s a midfielder for us, and she really came in and stepped up big for us today,” Mullady said. “She went out of her comfort zone today and took extra measures to make sure we came out on top.”

Early in the contest, it took some time for the teams to feel one another out.

“Early in the first half we were just a little anxious and didn’t value the ball as much with our transition opportunities,” Allen said. “We had good possession early and we were forcing them into some bad decisions in transition, which was creating some opportunities for us. But we were giving it right back to them.”

The Bobcats (12-6) struck first with 22:35 to play in the first when Kaileigh Maguire scored unassisted past Anderson. Fewer than six minutes later, Mahoney answered for the Pride.

“Bates did a great job locking down to stop our transitions and fast breaks,” Mullady said. “Our attackers at one point, we called a timeout and said our attackers had to step up and want the ball.

We knew we had to have more possession than they did,” Mullady added. “That, and take the right shots and be patient. And we did that. We followed our game plan and that’s why we were successful today.”

Bates took the lead again at the 20:59 mark of the second half on an Alex Briody shot on a feed from Moriah Greenstein. But again, Springfield bounced back, getting the equalizer at 11:20 gtom Kristina Krull, her 13th of the year.

After Mahoney’s second to give the visitors their first lead, Bates struggled to get set in its offense again, and when it did, the shots wouldn’t go.

“When it was seven-on-seven, we had a game plan, we were executing almost all of the game plan, and the only thing that struggled was the shot selection and then the actual finishing of the shots,” Allen said.

It stings, because you feel like we were a good enough team to win the game, but for whatever reason it didn’t happen,” Allen said. “There are some things that happened this season, though, that are very memorable, and stuff we won’t forget.”


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