CHICOPEE, Mass. – Elms College sophomore midfielder Joe Pellegrini (Somers, Conn.) netted what proved to be the game-winner in the 55th minute of play to give the top-seeded Blazers a hard-fought, 1-0 victory over fifth-seeded Lesley University in Friday evening's New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship tournament semifinal men's soccer game at Leary Field.
With the win, Elms improves to 10-8-0 on the season and will host second-seeded Newbury College (8-9-0) in the NECC Championship title game at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 3 at Leary Field. The Nighthawks downed sixth-seeded Daniel Webster College earlier in the day to earn its spot in the championship game. Lesley concludes its season 9-8-2 overall.
After a scoreless first half of action that saw the Elms edge Lesley in shots, 9-6, the Blazers broke through in the 55th minute of play when freshman defender Scott Labrie (Southampton, Mass.) headed a ball up the field to senior forward Adam O'Grady (Somers, Conn.) who dribbled down the left wing and crossed to Pellegrini sprinting down the center of the field who finished with a strike in the right corner of the net.
Elms had a chance to score just two minutes prior to Pellegrini's goal when junior forward Joseph Coleman (Easthampton, Mass.) delivered a corner kick to the head of Adam O'Grady who's shot hit off the cross bar and careened out to sophomore forward Lorenzo Rolocut (Somers, Conn.). Rolocut then drilled a shot to the far post but the ball hit the woodwork and kept the game level for the time being.
Sophomore defender Connor O'Grady (Somers, Conn.) had a chance to extend the lead at the 69:16 mark but his free kick glanced off the crossbar.
Lesley fired five shots on goal in the second frame including a free kick bullet from Walker Panek (Carlsbad, Calif.) in the 63rd minute but Blazers' sophomore net-minder Christian Kostka (Oxford, Conn.) staved off the threat with a diving save to his right.
Kostka made three more stellar saves in the half including one on a shot by Spencer Irwin (Somers, N.Y.) and a header that was flicked on by Harrison Sidell (Newhall,Calif.) in the 90th minute of play.
Elms' sophomore midfielder Safa Saady (Baghdad, Iraq) had two shots on goal, while Irwin notched two shots on target for the Lynx.
Nathan Trucks (Guilford, Conn.) made four saves between the pipes for Lesley, while Kostka turned away six shots for Elms.