Swarthmore stuns top-ranked women

After being dealt their first loss of the season in an upset by Swarthmore College, 4-3, last Wednesday, the women’s soccer team came back with a vengeance, pounding on New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponent Kean University 3-0 Saturday afternoon.

The team has not lost a conference matchup in its last 37 games, earning a total record of 35-0-2. Redemption came early for the Lions, as senior forward Jamie Kunkel scored on the near side off a cross from senior midfielder Erin Cunliffe 13 minutes into the game. The goal was Kunkel’s third of the season.

Soon after, the Lions picked up another goal, this time from senior midfielder Coleen Weber off an assist from sophomore defensewoman Jaclyn Levowski.

On Sept. 17, the Lions defense allowed two back-to-back breakaway goals from Swarthmore’s sophomore defensewoman Elizabeth Mills and sophomore forward Megan Colombo. The final Swarthmore goal was Colombo’s second of the game, as she had also beat the Lions defense early on for the Garnets’ first goal.

The final two goals added to a Swarthmore lead the Lions could not overcome, despite a literal last-minute effort when senior defenseman Jillian Casey scored on a breakaway to get within one goal.

The loss to Swarthmore was the first at home since Oct. 14, 2006, when the Lions fell to Wheaton College in overtime. The Lions, who were ranked No. 1 in the nation last week, will likely drop from the top spot due to the surprising loss.

Saturday’s game went much differently for the Lions’ defense. Most of the game was played on Kean’s side of the field, and the Cougars’ offense rarely posed a threat to the Lions. The Cougars often had a hard time getting the ball out of their own 18-yard box, as the Lions put together strings of passes that led to numerous shots on goal.

The Cougar defense struggled against a pressing Lions’ offense that hammered 24 shots at Kean’s sophomore goalkeeper Leandra Russo. Russo stopped many of the opportunities the Lions had to stretch their lead even further, finishing the game with 12 saves.

The Lions’ defense bounced back to normal after the loss against Swarthmore. The defense was able to keep the Cougars’ offense looking nonexistent as the Cougars managed only six shots-on-goal and Lions’ sophomore goalkeeper Katie Piotrowski had to make only two saves.

The Lions put the game away in the first half. Their third and last goal came from senior defenseman Laura Delaney. There was some confusion on the play, as Russo snared the ball off Delaney’s direct free kick, but the referee ruled the Kean keeper was actually behind the line when she made the save.

Delaney had a big week, also scoring in the Swarthmore game on Wednesday off a corner kick from freshman defenseman Nikki Migliori. The Lions offense as a whole had another big-scoring week, racking up six goals in the past two games and increasing their total to 25 goals in six games this season.

With the win over the Cougars, the Lions improved their overall record to 5-1 and 1-0 in NJAC play. Kean drops to 4-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference. The Lions are scheduled to take on conference rival Rowan University today at 5 p.m. in Lions’ Stadium.