Lions advance with back-to-back shutouts

The women’s soccer team had a great weekend as it became one of 16 teams left in the NCAA Division III Tournament and saw senior forward Dana DiBruno become the program’s all-time points leader.

“It is a little bit different this year because for the first weekend we had to play two games and usually we have a bye,” sophomore forward Briann McDonough said. “Last year we were hosting so now we have to go away next weekend. Right now, everything is up in the air.”

The third-ranked Lions boast an overall record of 19-0-1.

Participating in their 17th consecutive NCAA tournament, the Lions have reached the finals each of the last two years, finishing second on each occasion.

“I hope this is the year we win it all because it is my last chance,” DiBruno said. “We have a great team and we always have a good chance to win with this program, but I think this is it. The third time will be the charm for us.”

Scoring a goal and earning three assists this weekend, DiBruno set a new school record for total points with 54 goals and 27 assists for a total of 135 points.

“The record means a lot because this program is so great,” DiBruno said. “So many great players have come through here, and it is nice to share this with my teammates because I would never have gotten (the record) without any of them.”

DiBruno was also named the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s (NJAC) Midfielder of the Year.

The hosting Lions put forth a 2-0 effort in Sunday’s second round game against the Eagles of Eastern University.

“I think it is hard to play games back-to-back like we did this weekend, but I thought our girls played well,” head coach Joe Russo said.

Dominating possession, the Lions outshot Eastern 25-4 and earned a total of 13 corner kicks while allowing just one.

Senior forward Kristen Cubicciotti helped the Lions get an early lead by burying a shot 5:26 into the game. The opportunity was set up off a Lions corner kick. Senior defender Courtney Krol and junior defender Laura Delaney were both credited with the assist.

McDonough provided the Lions with an insurance goal in the 32nd minute of the first half. She settled a 25-yard pass from DiBruno and quickly shot with two defenders around her. The ball sailed into the left side of the net for McDonough’s 10th goal of the season.

The Lions kept up the pressure during the second half, forcing Eastern’s junior goalkeeper Amanda Daveler to make seven saves. However, Cubicciotti’s goal would prove to be the game winner as neither team found the back of the net in the second half.

Sophomore goalkeeper Jessica Clarke earned her 10th solo shutout of the season, recording four saves.

Allowing only four goals this season, the Lions defense was recognized for its stellar play. Clarke was named the 2007 NJAC Goalkeeper of the Year while Krol was awarded her third straight NJAC Defensive Player of the Year award.

“(Krol and Delaney) are great leaders at the back line,” Russo said. “We have been very stingy in the back and have not given up many goals.”

The Lions dominated in Saturday’s 7-0 first round game against Farmingdale State University. Maintaining an shot advantage of 33-3, the Lions were relentless the entire game.

“The whole team has a killer instinct,” McDonough said. “We always want to get ahead and we know that we cannot get complacent. You have to just keep going after them and going after them because if they sneak one goal in that will change the momentum of the game.”

Junior midfielder Coleen Weber scored the game winner in the 10th minute. It was her sixth goal and her fourth game winner this year.

Krol and DiBruno put away penalty kicks for the Lions, and junior forward Jamie Kunkel contributed a pair of goals to give her a team-leading 17 goals on the season.

McDonough and Cubicciotti rounded out the Lions’ scoring effort, scoring a first-half goal each.

The Lions will need two more wins in order to advance to the National Championship Finals. With seven seniors on the team, this year’s squad could be best suited to win the championship.

“Our seniors, when they came into the program, changed the way we play,” McDonough said. “They have done so much for this program that we want to end it right for them and win a National Championship.”