By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The Bridgewater State University women's soccer team fell just short in its bid to win the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament last season.
The Bears were edged by Worcester State in the final, 2-1, when they allowed a goal with just 4:20 remaining.
"It was a big-time motivation at the beginning of the season," said coach Yasmina Carvalho of Brockton. "That's all they could think about was those last four minutes."
One year later, BSU (11-6) is back in the postseason as the No. 3 seed in the MASCAC tournament after finishing in a three-way tie for first place with Westfield State and Worcester State at 6-1.
After dropping to third in the tiebreaker, the Bears will host sixth-seeded Framingham State tonight at 7 at Swenson Field in the quarterfinal round.
BSU, which enters the tourney with eight wins in the last 10 games starting with a 5-0 win over Framingham State on Sept. 23, is eager to go one step further than it did last season.
"We started off really slow (going 0-3 to open the schedule), but they didn't stagger at all," said Carvalho. "There was no mind-set that the season is over.
"It was like, 'We need to get back to the championship again and show we should have won last year.' There's a hunger and that's what got us back into the position we're in now."
The Bears have been stingy on defense once again with senior goalkeeper Lauren DeSousa of Taunton leading the way.
She recently set the program's career record for shutouts (24) and has 6.5 this season.
"I could go on for days about Lauren," said Carvalho of the 2016 conference player of the year. "She's just a phenomenal goalkeeper. She demands so much from her team and her defense.
"They're a very successful back line because they trust each other. The connection back there is undeniable. They work off of each other."
A lack of offense was the problem a year ago when BSU managed just 18 goals in 17 games, but the Bears have scored 40 goals this fall.
Courtney Pepin, Emma Sanders and Nicole Simas have eight goals each while Amelia Burke has five goals plus four assists. Alana Vincent of Taunton had four goals and four assists in eight games before getting injured.
"We had issues in the final third last year,″ said Carvalho. "This year, a lot of people stepped up and broke scoring droughts."
That improved offense combined with the sturdy defense earned the Bears a share of the MASCAC regular-season title, and now they are looking to take care of some unfinished business in the tourney.
"I had really high expectations coming into this year," said Carvalho, "because we had a great group last year and only graduated three seniors. We had most of the starting lineup coming back.
"We have the skill. We have the drive. It's just having it all come together and be consistent over three games. That's what has hurt us a little bit this year, inconsistency.
"But they want this so badly that I think they're going to play three solid games of soccer and we have the ability to come out on top."