The 2016 Women's Soccer team won the New England (NJCAA Div. III Region XXI) Championship Sunday afternoon with a decisive 4-0 victory over longtime local rival Springfield Technical Community College.
The Cougars had a perfect 11-0-0 record in regional games this year, outscoring their competition 73-2 while registering nine shutouts.
Sophomore sisters Natalie Galindo, of Chicopee, and Jennifer Galindo, of South Hadley, both graduates of Chicopee Comprehensive High School, led the way for HCC in Sunday's championship win, dominating the pitch as they have all season long. Both players scored on spectacular free kicks, Natalie in the first half for the Cougar's first goal; and Jennifer in the second half for the team's third goal. The Galindos lead the team in points this season, Natalie with 42 (15 goals, 12 assists) and Jennifer with 37 (12 goals, 13 assists).
Sophomore forward Olivia Neiswanger, of Holyoke, a graduate of Cathedral High, scored the Cougars' second goal before assisting the one by Jenni Galindo.
Sophomore forward Taydrah Clinton, of Springfield (Renaissance High) added the Cougar's fourth goal late in the game.
Coach Rob Galazka also noted the outstanding play of freshman Allison Zollo of Monson (Monson High).
"Allie was an absolute force and one of the best players on the field for the entire 90 minutes," he said.
Freshman goalkeeper MyKaela O'Connell, of Palmer (Palmer High) made three saves and earned her 10th shutout of the season and the team's 11th.
Alexandria Stuetzel, of Feeding Hills (Agawam High), McKenzieWilson, of South Hadley (Smith Academy), and Holly Wardwell, of Grandy (Granby High) also played brilliantly, Galazka said, each contributing with an assist.
The Lady Cougars have won five consecutive New England Championships and nine of the last 11. They are undefeated in Region XXI over the past four seasons, last losing in 2012.
The team will next play for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III District Championship on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 12 noon against Nassau Community College, the Region XV champions.
That game will be played at home at O'Connell Field.
A win there will earn HCC a spot in the Elite 8 of the NJCAA Division III National Championship Tournament.
Photos: (Left) Three sophomore players pose with the New England Championship plaque, Liv Neiswanger, Natalie Galindo, and Alli Stuetzel. (Right) The 2016 New England Champion Lady Cougars (Thumbnail) Jenn Galindo taking her free kick that resulted in the Cougars' third goal of the game.