West Hartford, Conn. - The University of Saint Joseph soccer team was handed a tough-luck, 1-0, loss in overtime by the MCLA Trailblazers on Tuesday afternoon at the USJ Soccer Field in the Blue Jays home opener of the 2016 season. With the loss, USJ falls to 1-2-0 on the season while the Trailblazers improve to 1-0-1.
Senior Marisa Sprague (Dalton, MA) lifted the Trailblazers to victory finding the back of the net just 1:15 into the first overtime period. After a failed clearance attempt by the USJ defense, Sprague collected the ball just outside the 18-yard box, drove up the middle, deked USJ freshman goalkeeper Megan Ricci (Center Moriches, NY) and fired into an empty net to give the visitors the dramatic, 1-0, victory.
The Blue Jays dominated the majority of play in both halves, but were unable to break through in regulation. USJ held a 7-2 advantage in shots at the break, putting five shots on frame to force five saves from MCLA's freshman goalkeeper Meg Richardson (Adams, MA). USJ's best opportunity in the first half came at the 14:24 mark when junior Jessica Spezzano (Watertown, CT) sent a shot on net, but Richardson made an excellent diving save to her left to deflect the ball past the end line.
Saint Joseph picked up right where they left off and kept up the pressure early in the second half. Just four minutes into the second stanza, USJ's Olivia Norton (Berlin, CT) fired a shot from the top of the box, but it sailed just over the crossbar. The Blue Jays would get four shots off before MCLA had its first chance in the second half increasing the shot differential to 11-2, but the Trailblazers made excellent use of their limited chances. The first shot of the second half by MCLA nearly proved to be the difference maker as junior Kelsey Alfonso (Lake George, NY) ripped a shot on goal that sent Ricci sprawling in the air and she was able to just punch it over the crossbar for the save.
USJ then responded with two terrific chances to score as they attempted to close out the game in regulation. At the 87:26 mark Spezzano took the Blue Jays fifth corner of the match and found sophomore Sarah Palko (Southington, CT), but her shot attempt curled just over the crossbar. Then, with just 49 seconds remaining, Spezzano almost was the hero as her last minute shot attempt caromed off the left post and forced the two teams into extra time where Sprague would eventually find the back of the net with the game-winner.
The Blue Jays outshot the Trailblazers 17-5 in the match, including 9-3 in shots on goal. Spezzano led USJ with seven shots putting four on frame. Senior Natalie Caney (Belchertown, MA) had a pair of shots for MCLA.
Richardson picked up her first win of the 2016 season for the Trailblazers to improve to 1-0-1 on the season. She finished with nine saves to record the shutout. Ricci posted two saves between the pipes, but too the loss and drops her record to 1-1-0.
The USJ soccer team will return to action next on Saturday, Sept. 10 when they travel to Mount Ida as they take on the Mustangs in their first GNAC game of the season. Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. MCLA will next play at Skidmore on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m.