Spotless season for Lions

Closing out an undefeated season, the women’s soccer team earned the No. 1 seed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship Tournament with wins over Rowan University, New Jersey City University (NJCU) and William Paterson University.

The Lions look to take their third consecutive NJAC Championship, ending the regular season with a 15-0-1 overall record and an 8-0-1 mark in the conference.

The winner of the NJAC tournament automatically receives a bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. In each of the last two years, the third-ranked Lions have advanced to the National Championship finals and finished second.

“This postseason is similar to past postseasons in that the team is taking it one game at a time to ultimately reach our goal of returning to the final four,” senior defender Courtney Krol said. “In order to extend our postseason to the National Championship game, our team needs to continue to work hard, possess the ball and finish the opportunities we are given.”

Wednesday’s 2-0 shutout over Rowan secured an undefeated season for the Lions and sent them into the NJAC tournament with the No. 1 seed. At 14-3 overall, Rowan was awarded the No. 2 seed and received a first round bid along with the Lions.

Senior midfielder Dana DiBruno scored the eventual game-winning goal for the Lions with a shot into the lower left corner of the net. Her goal in the 35th minute was set up by a cross from senior midfielder Kristen Cubicciotti.

Freshman midfielder Gina Colati added a goal in the 82nd minute. Colati blasted a shot from 40 yards out that flew under the crossbar and into the net. It was her second goal of the season.

Sophomore goalkeeper Jessica Clarke made two saves to secure the shutout. Clarke ended her regular season allowing two goals and recording eight shutouts in 1,279:21 minutes of action.

“Overall I credit the defense for all the shutouts this year and the hard work they put forward to shut down the opposing teams,” Clarke said. “Going into the playoffs the coaching staff helps keep me and the other goalkeepers prepared by keeping us focused and giving us shooting drills.”

This year the Lions’ defense allowed a total of 50 shots from their opponents compared to taking 463. They also scored a combined 63 goals while giving up just three.

The Lions routed NJCU 10-0 in their final regular-season home game, outshooting them 44-2.

Of the 13 meetings between the schools, the Lions have never lost to the Gothic Knights.

Before the contest, the Lions honored the seven seniors for their hard work and commitment throughout their careers.

“I cannot really picture playing without those girls,” junior midfielder Coleen Weber said. “Right now everyone is playing like it is their last game. Every tackle must get made, every shot must get finished and nothing is half hearted.”

It was the seniors who fueled the scoring barrage, combining for seven goals and two assists in the game. Cubicciotti got the game’s first goal in the fourth minute. Just two minutes later junior forward Jamie Kunkel scored her 13th of the season off an assist from DiBruno.

Switching roles, Kunkel set up DiBruno five minutes later for her 10th goal of the season.

Two more seniors placed their names on the score sheet as forward Beth Pagano and defender Toni-Anne Cavallo each tallied their third goals of the season.

Krol then assisted sophomore midfielder Melissa Martin’s second goal of the season, giving the Lions a 6-0 lead heading into halftime.

In the 50th minute, senior defender Lori Adriance put away her first goal of the season off a pass from freshman midfielder Casey Caruso.

Junior midfielder Erin Cunliffe added the eighth goal for the Lions while a pair of seniors rounded out the Lions’ scoring spree. Krol and Cavallo each netted a goal late in the game to give the Lions the 10-0 win.

Clarke made the lone save for the Lions. Junior goalkeepers Amy Hashem and Kristina Kuda also saw time in the net.