CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – No. 3 Lesley University advanced to the New England Collegiate Conference semifinals with a 5-3 win over No. 6 Mitchell College Wednesday night in a wild, high-scoring battle at a frigid Edward Field.
Ali Sozeri tied a Lesley record with a four-goal effort, netting two goals in the first 13 minutes. Mariners leading scorer James Gleason answered with two goals of his own shortly thereafter, turning a one-sided opening into a competitive shootout.
Sozeri took a pass from senior Darius Koep inside the right corner of the goalkeeper box and tapped a one-timer to the right of Mariners keeper Kevin Woodford from 10 yards out just 1:58 into the match.
The Lynx (13-4-1 overall) leading scorer struck again at 12:49 in a long one-on-one situation with Woodford. From 20 yards straight on, the Turkish forward fired a looping liner that ended up right at the goalkeeper's hands, but with enough English on it to trickle through Woodford's gloves, putting the home team on top 2-0 with all momentum in the Lynx favor.
Neither the momentum nor the lead lasted. Gleason scored less than three minute later, beating Lynx defenders with an array of moves, firing from 15 yards inside the left corner of the box for his first goal at 15:38. He then tied the game on a header after a long indirect kick from Howie Johnson just inside midfield at 27:33.
Just over a minute later, a Mitchell foul in the goalkeeper box at 28:46 led to a Sozeri penalty kick, on which the sophomore completed his first half hat trick, breaking the 2-2 tie.
However, Mitchell again met the Lynx ante, again on a Howie Johnson assist. The junior sent a shot on goal that was initially saved by goalie Max Perkins but trickled through his hands to Jason Kirby, who was waiting for the putback from point-blank range. Following the freshman's second career goal at 31:55, the teams played a scoreless final 12 minutes to go into halftime tied at 3-3.
Lesley outshot the Mariners 13-4 in the first half, but Mitchell made the most of its four chances, scoring on three of them and following the only shot that was saved.
Coming out of halftime, momentum was clearly in the visitors favor, but Sozeri and the Lynx made sure that didn't last.
From in front of the left post, Lesley senior Christian Domingo fielded a long Sean Randall throw-in with a header into the corner of the net, putting the Lynx on top again, 4-3, just 3:50 into the second half.
Clinging to its third lead of the game, Lesley received what figured to be a much-needed insurance goal from Sozeri. The midfielder raced down the right sideline covered by a Mitchell defender and fired a beautiful, low-angle blast just before the out of bounds line that sailed across the goalkeeper box and into the top opposite corner of the net for goal No. 15 on the season and four on the game, both Lynx records.
Mitchell attempted to answer, sending six shots at new Lesley goalie Nathan Trucks, inserted at halftime for an injured Perkins, but the reserve keeper kept the Mariners off the board in the second half. In his first action in almost a month and only his fourth game all season, Trucks made two saves on two Mitchell shots on goal, sending the Lynx to the NECC semifinals with a 5-3 win.
For Mitchell, Ramazan Sinani stepped up in place of Woodford, who departed with an injury in the first half, making a match-high seven saves.
In all, the Lynx outshot the Mariners 26-10 and earned 12 corner kicks to two for Mitchell.
Winners of three straight, Lesley advances to travel to No. 2 Daniel Webster College on Friday at 2 p.m. in Nashua, NH. Mitchell ends the season with an overall record of 5-11-1.