Last Thursday’s women’s soccer Commonwealth Conference semi-final game between Elizabethtown College and Stevenson University marked the second year in a row that the two teams competed for a spot in the Conference championship. Unfortunately the Blue Jays were defeated by Stevenson, who later clinched a spot in the Commonwealth Conference Championship game against Messiah on Saturday night.
Stevenson’s defense was the story of the game as Etown outshot the Mustangs 13-9 in total shots and 7-4 in the shots on goal category. The Blue Jays came out aggressively on offense, trying to get on the scoreboard first. Etown had four corner kicks within the first 13 minutes of the game, but could not register a shot.
The game’s first shot was not registered until 20 minutes into the game, as both teams finished the first half of play with seven shots between them. However, neither team produced a good scoring opportunity through the first 45 minutes.
The second half seemed to be a completely different game as both offenses picked up their scoring chances. The difference in the second half was Stevenson’s ability to take advantage of their scoring opportunities, finding the back of the net twice before it was all said and done.
A little over five minutes into the second half, an Etown foul just outside the 18-yard box gave the Mustangs a free kick. Stevenson’s Catherine Madden crossed the ball into the box, finding Meaghan William’s head for the first goal of the game.
The Blue Jays leading goal-scorer on the year, sophomore Lauren Berry, provided the offensive opportunities Etown needed to even the game at one. The Mustangs did their best defensive work during that time as they kept all six of Berry’s shots out of goal to preserve a 1-0 lead.
Etown’s best scoring chance of the day was Berry’s header off of fellow sophomore Trisha Clark’s corner kick, which was headed for the back of the net but the Mustang’s had their defense positioned right on the goal line to clear the shot out of harm’s way.
With time winding down on their championship hopes, the Blue Jays pushed every player up the field in hopes of scoring the equalizer. In the 87th minute, Stevenson used the Blue Jays’ strategy to their own advantage as they caught Etown on a counter-attack allowing the Mustangs to add an easy insurance goal, sealing a trip to the championship game.
By Monday afternoon, the mood around the locker room had changed when the NCAA Tournament field was announced. The Blue Jays found out that their fate was sealed when they received an at-large bid to face Trinity College (Conn.) at Misericordia University on Saturday. Etown was the last team announced in the 64-team tournament. Trinity received its first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament after finishing with the programs best record and reaching the semi-finals of their respective conference.
“The loss to Stevenson will definitely provide more motivation because we now know what it feels like to lose and be done,” junior Kendra Mancino said. “Getting the bid into the NCAA tournament came as a shocker to everyone, so now we can use the loss as more incentive to beat teams.”
The winner of the Blue Jays-Bantams match-up will face the winner of the other first round game in Dallas, Pa. between host Misericordia and Drew University. If the Blue Jays get by Trinity, their next game will be their second meeting against their next opponent. Etown defeated then-number seven Misericordia earlier this season, and fell to Drew 5-4 in a high-scoring season opener. Misericordia’s turf field will provide a challenge to the Blue Jays but they feel well prepared for what lies ahead.
“We will be playing on turf so this whole week we will be focusing on playing balls to feet and getting used to the speed of the turf,” Mancino said.
The second round match-up will be played on Sunday afternoon at Misericordia.
“Now that we are in the NCAA tournament, I think we are just going to put all of our energy into the next game. Once we win that game, we will focus on the next,” sophomore Dana Robidoux said. “We are excited to be in the tournament and want to take advantage of it and make it all the way to the finals in Texas.”
The Blue Jays relied on their youth and their defense this year en-route to their seventh all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Anchoring that defense was Robidoux, who compiled an 11-6 record in goal for the Blue Jays, with a 1.70 goals against average in 18 games.
“I am beyond excited to play in the tournament and have nothing but positive intuitions. However, every game is the same no matter how tough the opponent or how much is at stake,” Robidoux said. “No nerves, just excitement.”
The goal is clear and the journey to San Antonio, Tx. begins on Saturday.