Spartans Set to Host NAC Semifinal Tilt Against NEC

Spartans Set to Host NAC Semifinal Tilt Against NEC

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After defeating Maine Maritime and Husson in the final weekend of its regular season to claim the No. 2 seed in the North Atlantic Conference Tournament, the Castleton women's soccer team is set to host third-seeded New England College on Tuesday night in the semifinals at 6 p.m. at Spartan Stadium.

Castleton finished its regular season 9-7-2 overall and 8-1 in conference play to earn a bye in the first round of the NAC Tournament. The Spartans defeated Maine Maritime and Husson before battling Keene State to a 1-1, double-overtime draw in their regular-season finale last Wednesday. Makenzi Bellando netted Castleton's goal in the fifth minute, while Kiley Baran made a career-high 10 saves in the tying effort.

Rylee Nichols leads Castleton with 29 points on 13 goals and three assists this season. The freshman has netted at least a point in every conference match this season on her way to 11 goals and two assists in nine NAC contests. Bellando is second on the squad with 23 points on nine goals and five assists, while Julia Carone has seven goals and three assists for 17 total points. Bronwen Hopwood leads the team in assists with six and she has added five goals for a total of 16 points. The Spartans average 2.61 goals per game, good for third in the NAC.

Baran has made 13 starts in goal and holds a 9-3-1 overall record. She has posted a 0.95 goals-against average to pair with a .833 save percentage on the season. In nine conference starts, Baran is 8-1 with 31 saves and just six goals allowed for a 0.74 goals-against average. As a team, Castleton ranks third in the NAC in goals-against average (1.34) on the season.

New England College is seeking its second straight appearance in the conference championship after shutting out UMaine-Farmington, 1-0, in the opening round of the tournament on Saturday. Jaycie Triandafilou headed the game-winning goal off a corner kick from Nicole Cotrone in the 49th minute. Kayla Pugliese tallied two saves in the shutout for the Pilgrims.

Triandafilou leads the team in goals (10) and points (23). Emily LePage has a team-leading eight assists and has added seven goals for 22 total points, while Michaela Pomeroy has five goals and three assists for 13 points. The Pilgrims are averaging 2.12 goals per game, which ranks sixth in the NAC.

Defensively, Pugliese is 6-7-1 in 14 starts in goal and holds a 1.22 goals-against average with 53 total saves. Pugliese has two shutouts on the year and holds a .791 save percentage. Molly Gingras has seen action in nine games including three starts this season, posting a 1-1-1 record with two shutouts. The Pilgrims average 1.19 goals against per game, good for third in the conference.

Castleton won the regular-season meeting at New England College, 2-1, but that was long ago in both squad's conference opener back on Saturday, Sept. 16. Nichols scored her first career goal just over six minutes into the match to give the Spartans an early lead, before the Pilgrims responded with the equalizer on a goal from Triandafilou in the 51st minute. Less than three minutes later, Karly Meacham scored her only goal of the season to send the Spartans to victory.  

The winner of the semifinal matchup will advance to the NAC Championship on Saturday, which will be played at the higher seed.