BOSTON, Mass.—Playing in front of their largest crowd all season, the UMass Boston women's soccer team didn't disappoint as they earned a spot in the Little East Conference Championship Game for the second time in program history.
The top-seeded Beacons (17-2) overcame a shaky start to earn a 3-0 victory over fourth-seeded Keene State College (12-9-1) in the Little East Conference Semifinals Saturday afternoon at the Clark Athletic Field.
Sunday the Beacons will host third-seeded Western Connecticut State University (15-3-3) at Noon in the Little East Championship Game. The matchup is a rematch of the 2010 LEC Championship Game in which the Colonials earned a 1-0 victory in Danbury, Connecticut.
After failing to beat Keene State in the first 16 matchups between the schools, UMass Boston earned their second straight win over the Owls this year behind a goal and an assist from Sam Cristoforo (Rockland, Mass.). The junior midfielder scored her eight goal of the season in the 34th minute to ignite the rest of her team. It was Cristoforo's second game-winning goal in as many games against Keene State and gives her five game-winning goals on the season.
UMass Boston dominated the rest of the way, as they extended their lead with goals from Krista Ledin (Bridgewater, Mass.) and Tayla Andrews (Plymouth, Mass.). Ledin moved to within two points of Kristin Mulry ('11) for the program record for career points (115), while Andrews joined Ledin as only the second player in program history to reach the 50-point mark in a single season.
In net, Kristen Spain (Quincy, Mass.) earned her seventh shutout of the season by making five saves. The red-shirt transfer was barely tested in earning her program-record 16th career victory.
In a rematch of the 2011 Little East Conference semifinals, the Beacons took advantage of playing on their home field with a 20-7 advantage in shots and 8-1 edge on corner kicks.
After an even first 15 minutes in which the two teams traded three shots apiece, UMass Boston slowly took control of the game with the final 10 shots of the first half. The Beacons jumped out to a 1-0 lead off a of a corner kick-the same method Cristoforo scored on in their 5-0 regular-season victory over the Owls. Freshman Dani Beane's (Exeter, N.H.) initial shot was blocked, but Cristoforo found the rebound and sent the ball by a sprawling Victoria Crenson for the 1-0 margin.
Crenson finished with eight saves on the day on 11 shots. The sophomore keeper made several huge stops in the second half to keep the game close, including a full-extension save on a one-on-one with Ledin less than four minutes into the second stanza.
Ledin would return the favor at the 60:34 mark, when she received a through ball from Andrews and hit a hard liner to the near post; the shot flew by Crenson and bounced off the post and over the end line.
The Beacons finished off the scoring in the 77th minute, when Cristoforo sent a long through ball by the Owls last line of defense to Andrews, who sent a floating shot just over Crenson's outstretched hands.
Keene State put together several chances in the box over the final 10 minutes, but each effort was either cleared away a Beacons defender or went just wide of the net.
UMass Boston is now 5-0 in their first game of LEC Tournament play and 6-4 all-time in conference postseason play.