Following a solid regular season, the College’s women’s soccer team saw their hopes of a National Championship come to an end with a 1-0 loss to the Messiah College Falcons in the NCAA Division III Sectionals.
The loss occurred on the Falcons’ turf and the crushing blow came courtesy of a goal by Messiah College’s junior midfielder Hannah Levesque with 9:37 left in regulation.
The loss prevented the Lions from moving on to the Sectional Championship against the University of Mary Washington. However, the unfortunate outcome did not overshadow the successful season the team had in which they posted an overall record of 18-2-2.
The Falcons entered the game wih an undefeated record of 18-0-2. Just as the Lions expected, the game itself was a hard-fought battle between two good teams.
“We were expecting it to be a tough game,” senior midfielder Katie Egan said. “Messiah had been having a good season and we knew they would be tough competition.”
Overall the Lions played well but couldn’t capitalize offensively, which had been a strength of theirs throughout the regular season.
“We fought hard the entire time, we just couldn’t finish our opportunities,” Egan said. “It was a good game and unfortunately the girl from Messiah scored a beautiful goal late in the game. There was nothing our goalkeeper could’ve done to save the shot; it was perfectly placed.”
The Lions out-shot the Falcons 9-7 but were shut out for only the second time all season. The only other team that did so was the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Champions, Montclair State University. MSU won the Nov. 6 match up 3-2 on penalty kicks after a scoreless double overtime draw.
Though the season ended earlier than they hoped, the Lions still looked back on the season in a positive way.
“I thought we had a great season,” sophomore midfielder Caitlin Brennan said. “We worked very well as a team on and off the field, we won a lot of big games, and we were very successful. Our season definitely didn’t end on the high note that all of us wanted, but all in all I thought it was a memorable season.”
The Lions’ season seems more impressive when the adversity the team faced, including injuries to key players such as Christine Mullin, Lisa Kokotajlo, and Bernadette Coyle, is taken into account.
“We lost a couple of key players to injuries and that hurt us a little bit,” Egan said. “However, the remaining members of the team were able to fight through the challenges.”
Head coach Joe Russo praised the team for their efforts all season long.
“I thought it was a great season for us and I felt we showed we can compete at the highest level of competition,” Russo said. “The team really handled adversity well this season. I want to thank the captains from the bottom of my heart for their leadership and guidance.”
“We have a handful of amazing seniors leaving, who will be greatly missed not only as teammates but as friends, but we have a lot talent in our younger players,” Brennan said. “I have high expectations for another great season next year, and I’m looking forward to it already.”
Russo, who couldn’t say enough about his departing seniors, shares the team’s optimism going into next season. “Our foundation is solid and we have a great core returning,” he said. “There are a number of players next year who can step in and help the team chase its fourth National Championship.”