Nation’s No. 2 squad cruising in NCAA Tourney

The women’s soccer team wasted no time in its quest for a national championship on Saturday, scoring two goals in the first 12 minutes en route to a 5-0 victory over Westminster College at Mercer County Community College.

The College scored all five goals in the first half, securing a place in the sectional round of the NCAA Divsion III Tournament. Senior forward Brittny Boyd scored two of the first three goals, while freshman forward Jamie Kunkel netted the game-winner.

“We know that these games are going to be the hardest games of the season and that we would need to pick up our level of play to the next level,” Boyd said. “We did that tonight, and I think we played one of our best games of the season.”

The College will take on the Stevens Institute of Technology in the sectional semifinals on Saturday at Mercer County Community College. The College defeated Stevens 4-0 back on Oct. 19, snapping a 14-game win streak for the Ducks.

“It doesn’t matter who we play next,” head coach Joe Russo said. “It is who it is, we just have to go out and win. Go out and defend and play the game.”

Against Westminster, Kunkel began the scoring just 10 minutes into the game when she redirected a pass from sophomore defender Lori Adriance into the right corner of the net.

Adriance sent the ball toward Kunkel from the 40-yard line and the freshman slid to redirect the ball into a goal.

“We tried to open the game with a purpose and with a lot of energy and I think that was evident with those two great goals early on,” Russo said.

With the crowd still stirring from Kunkel’s goal, Boyd netted her first goal when she headed a Kristen Cubicciotti corner kick in off the crossbar just a 1:08 later.

“I should thank Kristen (Cubicciotti) for giving me a perfect cross on the corner,” Boyd said. “I was just able to get up high enough and elevate over the defender and get my head on the ball.”

Boyd struck again in the 28th minute, when she took a pass from sophomore midfielder forward Dana DiBruno and buried it into the net for her 14th goal of the year. DiBruno got the ball in her own territory and led Boyd with a cross-field pass. Boyd settled the ball in mid-stride and outran three Titan defenders while dribbling the ball to score. DiBruno, the team’s points leader, gained possession after Lions’ defender sophomore Courtney Krol and freshman Laura Delaney stopped a Titan offensive rush.

The Lions are undefeated on the year at 19-0, and remain ranked No. 2 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/adidas Division III poll.

Lions’ goalies senior Alissa Kacar and freshman Amy Hashem shared the team’s 18th shutout of the year without facing a shot.

The goals continued for the College when Cubicciotti scored off a pass from freshman defenseman Jillian Casey in the 32nd minute. Casey dribbled through Westminster territory and sent a pass across the box to a wide-open Cubicciotti for her third goal of the season.

Freshman midfielder Erin Cunliffe rounded out the scoring with under three minutes to play in the half when she scored off a pass from sophomore midfielder Beth Avery.

“All the games are important,” Boyd said. “I know that in the postseason every game could be my last, and I feel like the underclassmen realize that for the seniors. We (seniors) feel like the underclassman play that much harder for us.”

On Friday, the Lions collected a plethora of post-season honors, sweeping the positional awards. Kacar was named New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Goalie of the Year. Kacar has a .935 save percentage and 13 solo-shutouts.

Krol was named NJAC Defensive Player of the Year. She helped the Lions shut out 17 of their 18 opponents this year, while also contributing three goals and four assists to the offense.

DiBruno was named NJAC Offensive Player of Year. DiBruno, the 2004 NJAC Rookie of the Year, led the Lions in points and goals, and led the conference with eight game-winning goals.

Kacar, Krol, DiBruno, Boyd and Delaney were all honored with First Team All-NJAC selections. Cubicciotti was named All-NJAC Second Team. This marked the third time Boyd received all-conference honors in her stellar career.