By Michael Battista
The Lions, undefeated and ranked second in the nation according to United Soccer Coaches’ Division III poll, have clinched the top seed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference playoffs for the second straight season. The NJAC regular season champions earned their title in a thrilling, 2-1, victory over the No. 18 ranked Rowan University Profs on Oct. 25.
Coming in with a 15-0 overall record, the team needed a win or draw against the defending NJAC Champion Rowan on the road. The Lions found it off the foot of freshman midfielder Kelly Carolan.
Only three minutes and 33 seconds into the first overtime period, senior midfielder Jessica Goldman sent a ball through toward Carolan. The freshman beat the Rowan defense and keeper to give her team the win and top seed.
This was the College’s third game this season that required overtime, and the first to not be won with a goal from senior forward Christine Levering.
Within the first three minutes, Rowan drew three fouls from the Lions who were trying to push downfield early. In the 13th minute, Rowan took their first shot on goal and became the second school this season to take a lead against the College.
Rowan University junior forward Cathryn McCarry received a pass from senior forward Melissa Kelly and made a perfect touch around Lions sophomore goalkeeper Nicole DiPasquale to put her team up, 1-0.
The Lions only needed 66 seconds to respond. The Lions pushed down field into Rowan’s zone, and earned a corner kick. Senior midfielder Jessica Goldman stepped up to her usual role and kicked the ball into the Rowan box.
Sophomore defender Jen McGrogen then headed the pass toward the net. Rowan goalkeeper Shelby Money saved the shot, but left the ball in the open long enough for senior midfielder Kayla Bertolino to slam in the rebound and tie the game in the 14th minute.
Carolan told The Signal that her team knew what needed to be done after the goal, and they accomplished that.
“As a team we always talk about matching and exceeding other team’s intensity levels, so when the Profs scored we knew we had to higher the energy,” Carolan said. “It is always hard going down in a game, but mentally this made us realize that we had to play better.”
The Lions immediately controlled the ball and put continuous pressure on Rowan. It wouldn’t be until the 28th minute where Rowan senior forward Lauren Coletti got the last shot of the first half, which was saved by DiPasquale. The Lions took nine shots during the first 45 minutes, but only scored once.
In the second half, both teams combined for nine shots. The Lions and Rowan had chances to put the ball past the opposing team’s goalie but could not convert.
With their win, the Lions earned a bye and home field advantage during the entirety of the NJAC playoffs.
“Coach has been telling us all season how we have to get all three points in every game so we can have home field advantage,” Carolan said. “Playing on our own field creates a different environment than if we had to travel to other campus.”
As the second best team in the conference, Rowan also earned a bye during the first round of competition. Rounding out the playoff teams in order of the standings are Montclair State University, Kean University, Stockton University and Rutgers University-Newark.