The Lions’ season came to a close last Saturday, against familiar opponent Johns Hopkins University. After progressing through the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III women’s soccer tournament, their run was halted at Messiah College, with a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays.
“We were out for revenge,” junior forward Brenna Rubino said. “We felt confident that we could beat them as long as we were playing our game.” Earlier this season, the Lions fell to the Blue Jays 2-0.
According to head coach Joe Russo, it was a different team that the College was sporting the second time. The first time around in Baltimore, a few of the Lions were injured.
Despite the players being in better health, the game had a painfully similar outcome to their mid-season game. This time, the Blue Jays had a 2-0 lead early into the second half. With about 15 minutes left, freshman midfielder Sloan DiPiero headed it in off of a direct kick from junior defender Nikki Migliori. The College was unable to tie it up.
“It’s rough having a team beat you twice in one season especially when one of those losses means the season is over,” sophomore forward Katie Landrigan said.
The Lions’ final season record was 18-3-2.
The College, which hosted the first two rounds of the tournament, shut out their first and second-round opponents. They won the tournament opener with a 4-0 win over Christopher Newport. Rubino and junior midfielder Brittany McGinley each scored one goal in the first half. Goals by Landrigan and freshman forward Katie Lindacher clenched the four-point lead in the second half.
The next day, the Lions crushed Ithaca College 3-0, advancing them to the Sweet Sixteen round.
Against Ithaca, Migliori scored two goals within two minutes, both direct kicks shot from well outside the 18-yard-line. Junior defender Annie McCarthy scored the third goal.
“Once you make it to the tournament every team is good,” McCarthy said, “Every team is good enough to end your season.”
This year marked the Lions’ 20th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. They lead the tournament in all-time victories with 50.
“The matchups were just not good for us,” Russo said of the Sweet Sixteen round.
Three of the four teams in that round had been in the top 10 at some point this season.
In fact, going into the game, the Lions were ranked ninth compared to the Blue Jays who were 12th.
Despite allowing two goals in the game against Hopkins, the Lions defense was one to watch out for all season long. They were ranked fourth, allowing only 0.236 goals per game and shutting out 17 opponents.
“We were very stingy in the back,” Russo said, “Kendra’s been a big part of that, and the whole back line.”
Freshman goalkeeper Kendra Griffith ended the season with 13 solo shutouts and had a save percentage of .907. Griffith was pleased with her results but also said that she relies heavily on her defenders.
Also, with a solid front line and midfield, the College outscored opponents 59-7 this season. Twelve Lions’ offensive players scored at least two goals. Rubino totaled 12 this season, followed by sophomore Jessica Davila who put in nine.
This May, four players will be moving on and graduating from the College.
“They will be missed,” Russo said.
However, the majority of the Lions’ starting lineup this season consisted of freshmen and sophomores and juniors.
“When you have returning kids coming back … it’s a big plus,” Russo said.
Landrigan agrees that with a lot of the same players for next year, the team has definite potential to make it further.
“To realize we won’t be in San Antonio next week playing for a national championship is frustrating,” Landrigan said, “but we have to remember the feeling and start focusing on next season.”
The ladies will have 16 practice sessions during the off-season.
According to Russo, the team will focus to “recommit ourselves to staying fit and getting stronger and chase the goals of winning the national championship in 2011.”