Spartans March On To NAC Championship with 2-1 Win Over NEC

Spartans March On To NAC Championship with 2-1 Win Over NEC

CASTLETON, Vt. – The No. 2-seeded Castleton women's soccer team got a pair of second-half goals from Rylee Nichols and Makenzi Bellando to down third-seeded New England College, 2-1, Tuesday night at Spartan Stadium and advance to the North Atlantic Conference Championship.

Castleton improves to 10-7-2 on the season and marches on to host fourth-seeded Husson in the conference championship on Saturday, Nov. 4, with a time to be determined. New England College concludes its season with an 8-9-2 overall record following the loss.

After a scoreless first half, action picked up quickly in the second half as Nichols opened the scoring just over five minutes into the final stanza. Bellando took the ball deep into the offensive zone and sent a cross to the center of the box, where Nichols spun around a defender and lifted a right-footed shot into the top left corner of the net to give Castleton a 1-0 advantage in the 51st minute of the contest.

New England College played more aggressive on the offensive attack in search of the equalizer, and Michaela Pomeroy provided the Pilgrims with a spark after going short side with a line-drive shot from the left side of the box that found just enough room inside the left post and snuck past Spartan keeper Kiley Baran to draw the match even, 1-1, in the 60th minute.

After back-and-forth action over the next 10-plus minutes, Castleton found the back of the net once more to retake the lead for good. Kinnan Latremore controlled possession before sending a pass over to Bellando, who drove a 30-yard shot over the hands of Pilgrims' keeper Kayla Pugliese and under the crossbar for the go-ahead goal with just under 18 minutes left in regulation.

Emily LePage and Nicole Cotrone both came away with strong opportunities down the stretch for New England College, but Baran made a pair of key saves to hold off the Pilgrims as Castleton earned the 2-1 victory.

Baran finished with four saves -- all in the second half -- for Castleton to improve to 10-3-1 on the season. Pugliese stopped six shots in the loss for New England College.

New England College held an advantage in shots, 15-12, while the Spartans outshot the Pilgrims on goal, 8-5. Corner kicks finished 7-3 in favor of New England College, while the Spartans committed five fouls to the Pilgrims' nine.