Lions creep closer to NCAA Finals with two wins

The Lions are four wins away from playing in the NCAA Finals in San Antonio, Texas. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)
The Lions are four wins away from playing in the NCAA Finals in San Antonio, Texas. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

With two convincing wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III Tournament, the Lions are continuing to ride high on their quest for a national championship.

“We are very excited to be at the spot we are at now,” senior goalkeeper Jessica Clarke said. “We have worked extremely hard all year to get to here.”

The team handily took down host Amherst College by a final of 4-0 in their second round matchup.

In a very quiet first half, the Lions scored the lone goal thanks to freshman forward Kate Landrigan’s goal with 9:33 left in the half.

The second half was a completely different story. The Lions stormed out of the gate with a goal just 2:33 into the half. This score was off the foot of senior defender Jillian Casey, as she knocked in her ninth of the year and second in the tournament off a nice pass from junior forward Briann McDonough.

Freshmen forward Allyson Anderson and defender Brittany McGinley iced it for the victors within 10 minutes of each other. McGinley got her second goal in as many days thanks to a dime from Alexa Rozzi, while Anderson got her goal on a pass from Eva Gimello.

(Tim Lee / Photo Editor)
(Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

Despite having the distinct shots-on-goal advantage in the majority of their games this season, the Lions were matched by the Jeffs in this contest. Both teams recorded 17 shots apiece.

“Each game has been a battle,” Clarke said.

The defense cannot be overlooked either. Thanks to a season-high nine saves, Clarke recorded her 14th shutout of the season. That is a career high for the senior.

The four-year starter says the two games in two days may have had something to do with her busy day.

“Anytime a team plays back to back games in a weekend, it becomes an issue of grinding it out,” Clarke said. “It may not always be pretty but our team exhibited a great deal of determination and fight throughout the game.”

By virtue of their win, the College will now go head-to-head with unbeaten Williams College, who stands at 19-0 on the year. The College is now 18-2-1 after their second round victory.

There is also the chance of the Lions meeting a New Jersey Athletic conference rival in the next round of Sectionals. If the Lions can hand Williams its first loss, and Rowan wins its game against Ithaca, thes two rivals would meet with a berth in the semifinals at stake.

The time and venue of the contest between the Lions and the Ephs has yet to be determined.

“Williams is a good program, one that

we lost to last year,” Clarke said. “Our entire team is looking forward to the opportunity to play them again on their field.”

The College’s first match in the tournament was the opposite win over their first-round opponent Plattsburgh State.

The theme of the game was scoring early and often, and two first-half goals was all the team needed to keep the momentum going and win 2-0.

Casey got her tournament play off to a good start, scoring unassisted just 4:12 into the game.

Not long thereafter, sophomore defender Brittany McGinley hooked in a beautiful one-timer on a pass from Anderson to add the insurance for the College.

The scores were just two of the 25 shots the College took on the day. Plattsburgh managed just three.

“We definitely came to play and our offense did an excellent job of putting away our chances,” sophomore forward Maria Grady said.

With outscoring their opponents 6-0 in their two tournament games thus far, the Lions are confident in their chances. As many of the players have spoken of their hard work, it remains to be seen if that hard work does indeed pay off.

“I believe regardless of whom we are playing and their record, if we play like we are capable it will be a good weekend of soccer,” Clarke said.