Junior Brooke MacKenzie (Mansfield, Mass.) scored a pair of goals, including the game-winning tally in the 87th minute, to help Simmons Soccer defeat Norwich, 2-1, in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference match on Wednesday afternoon at Norwich. With the victory, the Sharks improve to 6-4-2 (4-1-2 GNAC). With the loss, the Cadets fall to 4-6-1 (2-4-1 GNAC).
Simmons controlled play early in the contest, and the Sharks' pressure finally paid off in the 22nd minute when freshman Justine Beauchamp (Exeter, N.H.) played a corner kick over to MacKenzie. The forward quickly settled the ball before blasting a low shot through traffic to beat Norwich keeper Nicki Hunsicker and put Simmons on top 1-0.
Norwich junior Nikki Szczepanski helped set up the Cadets' game-tying goal late in the first half when she tracked the ball down deep in the right corner of the field and sent a crossing pass over to freshman Brittany Casey. Casey, who had slipped inside the Sharks' defense, corralled the ball and tapped it into the net to tie the score at 1-1 with just 6:57 to play before halftime.
The Sharks defense began the second half with better organization, allowing the offense to take more risks and keep Norwich under pressure. The tide began to turn with about 15 minutes left in the game as Simmons began to generate more scoring opportunities.
The Sharks broke through with the game-winning goal with 3:07 to play when MacKenzie settled the ball just inside the penalty area and drove a bullet of a shot past Hunsicker and into the top left-hand corner of the cage.
The Cadets nearly tied the game in the waning seconds as Casey got in behind the Simmons defense and was one-on-one with sophomore goalkeeper Ashley Wheeler (Nashua, N.H.). Casey got off a low shot, which appeared to be ticketed for the goal. Wheeler had other ideas, though, as the sophomore keeper dove to her left to make a sprawling save and preserve the victory for the Sharks.
"Ashley Wheeler stepped up and made some big saves for us today," said Head Coach Erica Mastrogiacomo. "She played with confidence and composure and that is exactly what we needed from her."
Wheeler finished with nine saves in the win. Hunsicker tied her season high with 10 saves in the losing effort.
Simmons outshot Norwich 30-17 in the game, and the Sharks finished with a 9-4 edge in corner kicks.
"Brooke is a phenomenal athlete with a passion for the game. She has tremendous skill with the ball at her feet and her shooting ability is better than most," said Mastrogiacomo. "I was proud to see her fight for ninety minutes today as she put the team on her shoulders for the victory."
Simmons will return to action on Saturday, October 10 when they host GNAC foe Albertus Magnus at home at 1:00pm.