HENNIKER, N.H. – The Castleton women's soccer team set an early pace and continued strong defense throughout to defeat New England College, 2-1, in the first North Atlantic Conference match of the year for both squads Saturday afternoon at Don Melander Field.
With the win, Castleton improved to 2-2-1 overall and 1-0 in conference action. New England College fell to 0-5-1, 0-1 in NAC play following the loss.
For the second consecutive match, Castleton got off to a hot start to set the tone and gain early momentum. Rylee Nichols gave Castleton the lead just over six minutes into the contest, firing home a cross from Julia Carone from 10-yards out near the right side of the box.
Makenzi Bellando came away with an early chance of her own, finding space just outside the box but her shot sailed just high over the net. A Spartan foul just outside the box in the 38th minute gave New England College an opportunity for the equalizer, but the ensuing shot was blocked by the Spartan defense to hold the 1-0 lead at halftime.
New England College broke through just five minutes into the second half. Jaycie Triandafilou evened the score at 1-1 with a goal that snuck inside the left post on an assist from Emily LePage.
The even match was short-lived, however, as Karly Meacham powered a long drive from the top of the box that slipped just under the crossbar to give the Spartans the lead back, 2-1, just over two minutes later.
Castleton nearly stretched its lead to two in the 59th minute, as Julia Carone weaved into the center of the box and slipped a low shot headed for the back of the net but a last-second diving save kept the score intact.
Triandafilou looked for the equalizer with her second goal of the match in the 76th minute, but Kiley Baran was there to make the save and preserve the lead. Kaitie Sanders also made a strong defensive save in the winning effort, and Castleton went on the earn the victory by a final score of 2-1.
Baran finished with four saves in the match to earn her second victory of the season. The Pilgrims held a slight advantage in shots on goal, 6-4, while the Spartans came away with six corner kicks to the Pilgrims' two.
Castleton will return to the pitch Sunday afternoon to face Eastern Connecticut State on the road at 2 p.m.
Photo Credit: Ken Sanders.