In a game full of close calls and deflections, Allie Schilling made sure her shot counted.
The freshman forward scored late in the second half to propel the women’s soccer team to a 1-0 victory over Kean University on Friday night and win the 2005 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship.
The NJAC title is the College’s 10th in 12 seasons of NJAC women’s soccer. The win also clinched a birth for the Lions in the 2005 NCAA Division III Tournament.
“It felt so awesome,” Schilling said about the game-winning goal. “It’s definitely surreal.”
Schilling took a throw-in from freshman midfielder Coleen Weber, eluded two defenders, turned and fired a shot from 30 yards out. The ball deflected off the crossbar and into the goal for her eighth – and most important – score of the season.
“I knew I was open so I yelled to throw the ball in so I could get a quick shot,” Schilling said. “There weren’t many opportunities all night so I felt like I had to take what was possible at that moment.”
The throw-in was a result of Schilling’s hustle. She chased down a loose ball, causing Kean goalie Jessica Kogel to kick the ball out of bounds. Kogel kept Kean in the game all night, making 15 saves including a spectacular diving save on a shot by the College’s leading scorer junior forward Dana DiBruno.
But the Cougars did have their chances. Ten minutes into the game, forward Heather Anzivino fired a shot over Lion’s senior goalie Alissa Kacar that deflected off the crossbar and back into play.
Neither team could capitalize on opportunities in a back-and-forth first half. The College’s best chance came when DiBruno fired a shot with Kogel out of position, but Kean forward Rebecca Stokes made the save.
The College dominated play in the second, earning two corner kicks in the first five minutes and applying pressure on Kean the entire half.
“I think we became more relaxed in the second half and got into a better rhythm with us possessing the ball and keeping it more,” head coach Joe Russo said.
“It was a fantastic game, a great win for our kids and our program, and it’s always good to get that automatic bid,” head coach Joe Russo said.
The Lions finish the season a perfect 18-0 and ranked No. 2 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/adidas Division III poll.
“It feels great,” Kacar said. “We really deserved this and our team worked so hard.” Kacar earned her 13th shutout of the season despite not facing a shot on goal.
To reach the finals, the College defeated Richard Stockton College 3-0 in the NJAC tournament semifinals on Tuesday.
The Lions used a pair of first-half goals from sophomores DiBruno and Christine Mullin. It was DiBruno’s team-leading 17th goal on the year and Mullin’s first of the season. Schilling added a goal in the second half.
“We’re just looking to advance in the tournament and move on,” Russo said. “From the beginning of the year the goal is to win the NJAC, get into the tournament and to advance as far as we can.”
Russo added, “The next game is always the most important.” That all-important next game will come Saturday. After a first round bye in the NCAA Tournament, the Lions will host the winner of University of Westminster and the College of Notre Dame. Game time is yet to be announced.