By Ann Brunn
In a hard-fought match that went to double overtime, the women’s soccer team prevailed by a score of 3-2 over Montclair State University on Friday, Nov. 8.
The team claimed its third straight victory in the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship. The win came on the heels of a decisive semifinal matchup with Rowan University on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Tuesday’s game had less theaterics than Friday’s, but it was nonetheless a crucial victory for the Lions to contain their pursuit for a third straight title.
Four minutes into the match, sophomore midfielder Amelia Curtis scored her first goal of the year on a 15-yard shot to the top right corner of the net, which gave the Lions a 1-0 lead over Rowan.
The Lions’ defensive unit was stifling in the first half, as it held Rowan’s offense to a mere two shots. However, Rowan did not go quietly into the night, as it sent in two shots late in the second half, both of which were saved by senior goalkeeper Nicole DiPasquale.
In the 87th minute, junior forward Julianna Bertolino sealed the victory for the Lions with a show-stopping goal assisted by senior midfielder Taylor Nolan. Nolan headed the ball to Bertolino, who had a breakaway and ultimately sent the ball in 12 yards outside the net to the top left corner, giving the Lions a 2-0 lead.
The College held a 4-1 advantage in corner kicks, while it outshot Rowan 16-5.
Friday night’s game produced everything that one could hope for in a championship match.
The Lions took advantage against Montclair State early when freshman midfielder Gianna Coppola sent a low pass to Bertolino, who punched it in near the right post. Minutes later, the College built its lead to 2-0 when Bertolino was fouled inside the box, allowing junior midfielder Kelly Carolan to convert a penalty kick.
Montclair State capitalized on a penalty kick of its own in the 64th minute to cut the Lions’ lead in half. In the 71st minute, DiPasquale came up with a big save to keep the Lions in front. However, just minutes later, Montclair State netted the equalizer off a breakaway goal that was just out of DiPasquale’s reach. The match remained tied through the 90th minute, sending it to overtime.
The Lions had their chances to win in the first overtime with shots from Nolan and junior forward Randi Smith, but the Montclair State goalkeeper saved both of them.
In the 108th minute, junior defenseman Faith Eichenour sent a pass to the middle of the box, which ricocheted off a Montclair State defender. Carolan chased after it, drawing a hard foul, which set up the Lions for the potential game-winning penalty kick. Curtis stepped in and punched in the kick, which sealed the victory led to a wild celebration on the field.
The win marks the women’s 19th NJAC championship out of 26 in conference history. With the win, the Lions clinched an automatic bid for their 29th straight appearance to the NCAA Division III Tournament.