By Christine Houghton
The women’s soccer team competed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championships this past week. The team first faced off against Montclair State University in the semifinals and then against Rowan University in the final round.
The Lions were victorious in both matches, defeating both Montclair and Rowan by a close score of 1-0. The team won the game and now holds its 18th NJAC Championship title.
On Oct. 31 Montclair proved to be a challenging opponent. It held the Lions to only four shots in the first half, with Montclair following close behind having with shots on the Lions. Montclair’s pressure over the Lions didn’t last long as the team added 10 shots to its count by the end of the game, compared to Montclair’s one shot during the second half.
The high-energy game was highlighted by aggressive spurts of play and referee shortcomings, which amped up the crowd. Parents, friends, fans and spectators alike spurred personal vendettas against the line judges as strings of personal fouls by Montclair were blatantly ignored.
In the 53rd minute, freshman forward/midfielder Nikki Butler sent in a header off an assist from sophomore forward Randi Smith to put the Lions ahead by one. This is Butler’s seventh goal of her career and Smith’s fourth career assist.
The Lion’s defense held strong yet again through the efforts of sophomore midfielder Faith Eichenour, junior defensemen Jen McGrogan and Nora Burdge and junior goalkeeper Nicole DiPasquale.
With the final score being 1-0, the Montclair match served as DiPasquale’s 22nd career shutout as well as her eighth of the season.
On Saturday, Nov. 3, the Lions went head to head for the NJAC Championship title in a cut-throat game against Rowan University in Lions’ Stadium. The game, which lasted a grueling 108 minutes, dragged on through regulation and into a second overtime before the Lions punched in the winning goal.
Although Rowan kept at the Lions’ tails, the College had 16 shots and Rowan had 11, the team was able to edge out a win in the final minutes of overtime.
The Lions’ defense led a fierce attack against Rowan, covering any and all gaps that the team could take advantage of. DiPasquale locked down the Lions’ goal to deliver her 23rd career shutout, an amazing achievement for her athletic career.
The team’s defense also had another amazing night alongside DiPasquale’s five saves. Eichenour and sophomore defender Ally Weaver held a secure line of defense throughout the game, along with McGrogan who also squashed with ease Rowan’s chance to score against an keeperless goal.
The winning goal came from the valiant efforts of three Lions. Smith sent in a kick which was then headed in toward the goal by Butler. That ball ricocheted off the crossbar and finally found the net when it was headed in for good by junior midfielder Taylor Nolan for the sole point of the game.
The team has achieved another NJAC Championship title with a conference record of 7-1 and an overall record of 13-1-1. Next for the Lions will be the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship tournament.
The College will host the first and second rounds of the tournament on Saturday, Nov. 10 and Sunday, Nov. 11. The team will first challenge Western Connecticut State University for an 11 a.m. match on Saturday. At 1:30 p.m., Brandeis University will play Farmingdale State College. The winner of both matches will go head-to-head on Sunday for a 1 p.m. contest to compete in the sectional round.