The College’s women’s soccer team tied Montclair State University 0-0 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship game on Saturday, but Montclair claimed the title 3-1 on penalty kicks. It is the first NJAC championship win for the Red Hawks and it gained them an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament.
Montclair’s sophomore goalkeeper Kristin Kuhmann had a career-high 14 saves, while the College was unable to capitalize on any of its 28 shots. Head coach Joe Russo was upset with the loss but was not disappointed with the way his team played.
“I thought we played well in stretches,” Russo said. “We defended very well but we just didn’t convert on the opportunities we had.”
In the shootout period, senior midfielder Stephanie Peters was the first to shoot for the Lions. Her shot hit the post and the Red Hawks followed the miss with a converted shot, giving them a 1-0 lead in the shootout with four more shots remaining for each team.
In the second round, senior midfielder Amy Swiatecki-McCabe had her shot turned away by Kuhmann and once again Montclair converted, giving the Red Hawks a 2-0 advantage.
Senior midfielder Lauren DiStefano finally got the College on the board with a goal in the third round but Montclair converted once again.
In the fourth round, Kuhmann saved freshman forward Dana DiBruno’s shot, clinching the win for Montclair. The Lions were visibly somber after the loss, but junior forward Brittny Boyd said they kept their heads up.
“We were surprised, disappointed and upset, but this is the kind of thing that makes you a stronger team in the end,” Boyd said. “If we do make it to the tournament we are going in as a stronger team than if this hadn’t happened to us.”
Despite the loss, the Lions received an atlarge berth in the NCAA Division III tournament. They will have a first-round bye and will take on the winner of today’s game between Gettysburg College and Chestnut Hill College.
The Lions finished with the best record in the NJAC at 17-1-2 and prior to the loss they were ranked eighth in the nation.
In the semifinals on Wednesday, the Lions were able to advance to the finals easily against Rowan University with a 5-0 win. Boyd was the star of the day for the Lions with two goals and an assist. Senior midfielder Lynda Schuster, junior midfielder Dana Logandro and DiBruno each added a goal for the Lions.
Now, the Lions focus their attention on the upcoming NCAA tournament. Their main goal is to make it through the preliminary rounds and make it to the championships in Greensboro, N.C. on Nov. 26.
Like Boyd, senior captain Katie Egan said she thinks the loss is going to give the Lions even more incentive to win in the NCAA tournament.
“We will use the loss as a learning experience,” Egan said. “We will build on it and use it to reinforce the fact that we can’t just show up and expect to win. We know that from now on there are no second chances.”