Assistant Sports Editor
BENNINGTON -- All signs pointed toward the Mountaineers pulling off an old-fashioned smash-and-grab victory against conference powerhouse Lesley:
A late goal against the run of play. A resilient defense staying compact and doing its job. The confidence that comes with one of the best starts in program history.
"We got fortunate to get that goal, but, with about four minutes left, I thought we were going get through this," Southern Vermont College coach Michael Zauzig said. "Sometimes you can't predict what's going to happen."
What followed were two Lynx goals, 94 seconds apart, in the final four minutes that stunned the Mountaineers and stole away a 2-1 victory on Homecoming Saturday at Southern Vermont.
The New England College Conference opener for both teams, the result split the teams' tie atop the standings. SVC fell to 5-2-1, while Lesley moved to 6-1-1.
But, on a blustery afternoon, the resurgent Mountaineers knew they had to approach the Lynx differently -- more conservatively -- than their previous opponents.
"They're so good, they're such a good team -- they're so athletic, so skilled, so well-coached," Zauzig said. "It's so hard to gameplan for them and figure out what you want to do.
"The gameplan was defensive, sitting [back] and keeping our shape," he said. "When you keep shape you make them very predictable. And we did."
Southern Vermont conceded 14 shots on goal, 10 corner kicks and the bulk of the possession, but kept the game scoreless for one half and well into the next. Goalkeeper Catrina Cecchini provided 12 saves for the hosts and was effective coming off her line to snuff out would-be chances.
"I don't think they expected us to come that hard at them," SVC forward Kaitlyn Forant said.
And with 14 minutes left in regulation, Cecchini made a standout, diving save to her left to deny Hayley Wirth and spark a counter attack.
After a quick transition to midfield, Forant sent a ball through for Ortega down the right flank. Ortega maneuvered behind the Lynx' back line and, with Forant streaking down the center of the pitch, fired her own shot at goalkeeper Emileigh Lloyd (two saves) -- SVC's first of the half.
"I hit it with my right and curled it a little bit, got lucky the goalie didn't have good hands, and [Forant] followed," Ortega said.
The bobbled ball fell left to Forant who, stunned to have an unexpected rebound, space and time, settled with one touch and finished with her next for the 1-0 lead.
"You always have to go after [the rebound], always," Forant said. "The ball is right there and all I thought was, ‘Don't shank it.' So I took my time so I didn't ruin it."
The Mountaineers continued to repel the Lynx until 3:24 remained on the clock. Veronica Halen whipped in a cross from the left side that sailed over Cecchini's outstretched arms to Sarah Apgar who cleaned up at the far post to knot the score, 1-1.
Then, with 1:50 to go, after Cecchini stopped Lesley's initial shot from the right side and second from the left, Kate Ryder headed in the rebound for the game-winner.
Painfully close to their best win of the season, the Mountaineers remain a positive work in progress.
"They worked so hard, they listened, they reacted -- we're getting better. That's the main thing, at the end of the day we're getting better," Zauzig said. "Last year, I don't think anybody in the conference in the regular season had a better result than 5-0 against Lesley, so it's [a result] that will help us move forward."