BABSON PARK, Mass. – Playing in her final regular season home game, Babson College women’s soccer senior tri-captain Kristy Benoit (Shrewsbury, Mass.) made a dramatic return to the Beavers’ lineup by scoring the game’s only goal to lift her team to a thrilling 1-0 victory over visiting MIT in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) finale on Saturday.
With the victory, Babson (11-6-1 overall, 6-2-1 NEWMAC) clinches the second seed and a first-round bye in next week’s conference tournament, and will head to Springfield College for the semifinals next Saturday. Meanwhile, MIT (13-3-1 overall, 6-2-1), ranked sixth in New England in the most recent NSCAA/HendrickCars.com Regional Poll, will enter the tourney as the third seed and will host an opponent to be determined in the first round on Tuesday, November 2.
After missing Babson’s last 15 games with an injury, Benoit made her first appearance since September 4. Starting alongside fellow tri-captains Patty Pytlik (Wellesley, Mass.) and Ellen McCurdy (Weston, Mass.) as part of the Beavers’ senior day festivities, the veteran midfielder made an immediate impact when she netted the game’s lone goal less than four minutes into the contest. Junior Bridget McCurdy (Weston, Mass.) lofted a cross from the right corner into the box, where Ellen McCurdy redirected it to the left side. Benoit then poked it past diving goalie Meghan Wright (Devon, Pa.) and into the center of the net for her first goal of the season and the sixth of her career at 3:38.
From there, the game would rest on the shoulders of junior goalie Lisa Wojnar (Bellaire, Texas) and the Babson defense, which held off a pressing MIT attack that mounted a 17-8 shot advantage in the contest. Wojnar made the biggest of her four first-half stops with a diving denial of MIT junior Alisha Lussiez’s (Livonia, Mich.) close-range bid in the 23rd minute, and then turned away three more shots in the second half to give her seven saves in the game. Among those were a brilliant lunging save to her left on a rocket by senior Lauren Hernley (Elizabethtown, Pa.) at 58:42 and a deflection of a long drive by first-year Samantha Fleischmann (Eastchester, N.Y.) at the 87-minute mark.
MIT had one final scoring opportunity with 2:30 remaining in regulation, but Wojnar leapt over sophomore forward Emily Kuo (Chicago, Ill.) to make a clean catch of a dangerous serve to help the Beavers clinch the 1-0 victory.
The shutout was Wojnar’s eighth of the season, while Wright finished with four stops in defeat for MIT.
Prior to the game, there was a brief ceremony in honor of Benoit, Pytlik, and Ellen McCurdy, who were playing in their final regular season home game. Together, the trio helped lead the Beavers to an overall record of 43-25-10, giving them the most victories by a single class since 1999. In addition, this year’s 11-6-1 record marks the first time since 1998 that Babson has won 10 or more games in four consecutive seasons.