It was a bittersweet weekend for the College’s women’s soccer team at the Esprit DIII Tournament in North Carolina.
The Lions, ranked 10th according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/Adidas Division III Pre-Season Poll, suffered their first loss of the season in the first game of the tournament against the University of Puget Sound Loggers on Saturday morning, 3-2.
The Lions then came back to shut out Emory University, 3-0, in their second game of the weekend.
“The tournament was definitely a really important one,” senior midfielder Lynda Schuster said. “The opportunity to play two top 10-ranked teams was something we needed.”
The Lions began the first game with a quick goal by senior midfielder Lauren DiStefano. Just 40 seconds into the game, DiStefano shot one past the Loggers junior goalkeeper Erin Williams to give the Lions an early lead of 1-0.
But the Loggers struck back. Eighteen minutes after the Lions’ goal, junior forward Cortney Kjar tied the game at one when she scored off the dribble from 12 yards away. Five minutes later, Kjar scored again off a cross from junior forward Elizabeth Pitman.
The score would remain tied at one through the rest of the first half.
In the second half, Kajar, completing her hat trick, scored from the 18 yard line giving UPS a 3-1 advantage. The Lions fought back with one more goal to tighten the margin but the Loggers held on for the win, 3-2.
“We didn’t get the outcome we were looking for but I think it was the wake-up call our team needed,” Schuster said.
The Lions swore the next game would be different. And it was.
On Sunday afternoon, in their last game of the tournament, the Lions again took an early lead against the Emory University Eagles as senior midfielder Stephanie Peters connected with Schuster and DiStefano at the 10-minute mark to make the score 1-0.
D?j? vu set into the minds of the Lions. But, this time, they made sure to avoid a come-back win from their opponent.
“After losing to UPS, we realized what we needed to do was to come together as a team and win against Emory,” Schuster said.
A little before halftime, Schuster scored off a cross from junior forward Brittny Boyd to stretch the Lions lead to 2-0. The Lions would hold the advantage into halftime.
Schuster then sealed the win with an unassisted goal from the 18 yard line.
“I felt great knowing I could help contribute to the win,” Schuster said. “Even though we got unlucky a few times, hitting the post twice in a row, the important thing is that we finished on the chances we had and didn’t allow their offense the chance to do anything.”
Schuster’s two goals and one assist, together with the Lions’ almost impeccable defense which held the Eagles to only two shots and two corner kicks, clinched the game for the Lions.
“In the game against Emory, we pulled it all together,” Schuster said. “Our defense played amazing and our offense and midfielders worked very well with each other passing and creating scoring opportunities.”
Furthermore, junior goalkeeper Alissa Kacar went home with her third shutout of the season.
After their victory over Emory, the Lions remain confident that they will accomplish the high, but feasible goals they set for themselves this season.
“I think our team this season is going to be amazing,” Schuster said. “We set our goals back in August – on the first day of preseason – and we plan to be practicing and playing until the last possible day of the season. Each and every player on our team is amazing and I think that with all of us working together, as a team, there is nothing that will stop us from reaching our goal of being national champions.”
After this weekend, the Lions record stands at 3-1-1. Up next for the team will be their first New Jersey Athletic Conference game of the season against Montclair State University at Lions’ Stadium tomorrow at 7:30pm.