Semifinal shutout ends Lions’ season

The women’s soccer team’s perfect season came to an end this weekend as it fell 2-0 to the Falcons of Messiah College 23-0 in the NCAA Division III Semifinal game.

Finishing the season with an overall record of 21-1-1, the Lions failed to reach the NCAA Championship for the first time in three years.

Saturday was the fourth time in as many years that the Lions and the Falcons have met in the NCAA Tournament.

The Falcons have held a 3-1 advantage over that span with the Lions’ only win coming in the semifinal of last season’s tournament.

Despite getting outshot by their opponent for the first time all year, the Lions were able to produce some scoring opportunities in the first half of the game.

Junior forward Jamie Kunkel found an open shot in the first few minutes, but her attempt sailed over the crossbar. Senior forward Dana DiBruno also missed a long-range shot just over the crossbar.

Freshman forward Joanna Haqq scored the winning goal for Messiah in the 19th minute. After working her way down the right side of the field, she put away her own rebound to put the Lions down 1-0.

Sophomore forward Briann McDonough created a pair of opportunities to tie the game early in the second half. McDonough’s first attempt was stopped by Messiah’s junior goalkeeper Brindley Beckwith as she dove toward the top corner. Her second chance at an equalizer just missed high of the goal.

The Falcons extended their lead to 2-0 when freshman forward Erin Hench intercepted a pass in the Lions’ penalty box in the 64th minute. Much of the rest of the game was played on the Lions’ defensive half.

Sophomore goalkeeper Jessica Clarke made a season-high six saves throughout the game.

In order to advance to the semifinal, the Lions pulled out a pair of 1-0 sectional wins against Lynchburg College and Washington University in Lynchburg, Va.

On Sunday, Nov. 18, senior midfielder Kristen Cubicciotti sent the Lions into the semifinals with a second-half goal against Lynchburg. It was Cubicciotti’s sixth goal of the season and her fourth game-winner.

Lynchburg came into the game ranked second in goals against average, allowing just .20 goals per game. However, an overwhelming 24-6 shot advantage for the Lions was enough to pull out the win.

On Saturday, Nov. 17, the Lions played their first NCAA Tournament match away from home as they defeated Washington 1-0.

This time it was DiBruno who saved the Lions from going into overtime. Her game-winning goal came with just nine minutes left in regulation. Set up off a Cubicciotti corner kick, DiBruno was able to settle the ball and net her 14th goal of the season.

The Lions will be losing seven seniors to graduation next year. Among those key players leaving are senior defender Courtney Krol and DiBruno. Both have received All-America honors during their careers. DiBruno also holds the school’s all-time points record with 137 total.