WORCESTER -- WPI's Kelsey Leach (Tolland, CT) and Smith's Noemi Howland (South Pasadena, CA) registered dueling shutouts as the Engineers and visiting Pioneers opened NEWMAC play with a scoreless draw on a sun-soaked H.Carr Field at Alumni Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With the result, WPI, ranked fifth in the latest United Soccer Coaches Region II rankings, moves to 3-2-1 on the season and 0-0-1 in conference play while Smith is now 2-1-2 overall and 0-0-1 versus NEWMAC foes.
The clean sheet was the second solo for Leach and the fourth as a team for the Crimson and Gray with Leach playing a role in all four of them. The senior was credited with three stops on the day. Howland was outstanding in between the pipes for the Pioneers, establishing a new career-high in saves with 12.
WPI started off the game strong with four shots and a pair of corners all within the opening six and half minutes. The hosts had the best scoring chance in the opening half in the 41st minute when Allison Escott (Columbia, CT) looked to bang home a long shot after a corner kick, but her bid was knocked over the crossbar by a backpedaling Howland.
Sara Buszkiewicz (Westminster, MA) provide Smith with its finest scoring opportunity in the 57th minute of action only to see her shot deflected away past the far post by Leach. Just after an hour of action, the Boynton Hillers nearly broke the scoreless contest as Caitlin Bonavita (Wilbraham, MA) took a cross from Lilly Proulx (New Boston, NH) but was denied by Howland.
The final 10 minutes saw a pair of great Engineer chances. Olivia Toolin (Bedford, NH) found Grace Casey (Winchester, MA) whose nailed a shot off the crossbar at 80:48 and just two minutes later Hannah Wolfgang (Holliston, MA) sent a cross to Molly Vincent (Douglas, MA), who sent a shot to corner only to repelled by another great Howland save.
WPI accounted for 11 of the 12 first half shots and ended with a 27-6 edge for the match. Casey paced all players with five shots and Bonavita, Escott and Caitlin Strzegowski (East Granby, CT) all notched two shots on goal. Buszkiewicz accounted for three of the Pioneers six shots, with three on frame.
The Engineers wrap up a three-match home stand on Tuesday as they are set to host Roger Williams for a non-conference matchup scheduled for 7pm. Smith will head to Springfield to take on Western New England in a non-conference tilt slated for Wednesday at 4pm.
Majority of recap written by WPI Sports Information Student Assistant Maya Vartabedian '24