BIDDEFORD — All season, the University of New England women’s soccer team has played an attacking style that suits a roster of offensive-minded players. But that doesn’t mean the Nor’easters can’t defend.

First-year midfielder Edie Pallozzi scored her first collegiate goal in the 20th minute and UNE bottled up high-powered Westfield State for a 1-0 victory in an ECAC Division III New England semifinal Friday at a cold Barbara J. Hazard Field.

The second-seeded Nor’easters (13-4-2) move to the final Sunday against fourth-seeded Framingham State.

The game wasn’t decided until the final moments. That perhaps was best illustrated by Thornton Academy graduate Katelyn Pierson, a defender who dug the ball free in her own end and, in attempt to burn the clock, weaved through the Owls’ midfield along the left wing. The Owls won the ball and back tracked the exhausted Pierson.

“It’s a battle all 90 minutes,” Pierson said. “That last stretch, that sprint I could feel it, but I had to get back. You can’t get caught up when the ball’s going in the other direction.”

Westfield State (13-6-2) entered the game with a potent offense led by Sarah Sypek (21 goals, 8 assists) and Amanda Grant (15 goals, 11 assists).

With that in mind, UNE placed a premium on defensive play, asking midfielders to track back to help defenders Pierson, Maria Philbrick of Scarborough and Lindsey Monaco.

“We created a lot of chances where our crosses ran all the way through,” UNE Coach Heather Davis said. “Part of that was a symptom of the (defensive) demands we were putting on our players.”

With the setting sun to their backs, the Nor’easters controlled much of the early going. Pallozzi, a 2014 graduate of Deering High, picked up a loose ball at the top of the 18-yard box and drove a high shot that fell just below the crossbar to beat Westfield State goalie Ann Stack (10 saves).

The play started when UNE forward Becca Murphy saved the ball at the end line and drove it back onto the field.

“The ball (deflected) off a defender and it fell to me,” Pallozzi said. “I thought it was going over but it dropped.”

Momentum shifted back and forth, with the Nor’easters holding the advantage in shots (17-14) and shots on goal (11-8). Just when it seemed Westfield State would break to goal, UNE came up with the ball.

“You have good spans (of possession) and not so good spans,” said midfielder Margaret Palmer, a Scarborough graduate. “We had to try our hardest to play more defensively. I tried wicked hard to keep pushing myself back and not let them have the opportunity to get by us.”

Westfield’s best chances of the first half ended with the strong play of UNE keeper Brielle Robinson (8 saves). She stopped Kate Matroni’s drive to the near post from the end line in the 26th minute. About a minute later, Grant saw Robinson swat a seemingly sure goal up. It hit the crossbar, fell to Monaco and she cleared it.

“Those big saves give you such a boost,” Pierson said. “We try not to make (Robinson) have to work too hard, but she comes up big when she needs to.”

Now it’s on to the final for UNE, which saw its hopes for a berth into the NCAA Division III tournament dashed in a quarterfinal loss to Gordon in the Commonwealth Coast Conference tournament.

“Any postseason opportunity is a real feather in the cap of a team,” Davis said. “I felt really fortunate to be awarded a spot in the ECAC tournament and have this chance to extend our season.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.