By Miguel Gonzalez
The Lions successfully defended their New Jersey Athletic Conference title by defeating the William Paterson Pioneers and the Rowan University Profs at Lions’ Stadium on Wednesday, Nov. 4, and Saturday, Nov. 7, respectively. Prior to the victories, the Lions received an abundance of season accolades from the NJAC. Junior midfielder Jaclyn Douglas was announced as the NJAC Offensive Player of the Year and junior defender Lexi Smith was announced as the NJAC Defensive Player of the Year.
In addition, coach Sharon Pfluger was honored as the NJAC Coach of the Year for the second season in a row. Lastly, senior midfielder Mikayla Cimilluca, Douglas, junior midfielder Danielle Andreula and Smith were named to the NJAC First Team. Senior forward Alicia Wagner and junior defender Shannon Cowles were given NJAC honorable mentions.
In the semifinals of the NJAC tournament, the Lions blanked out the Pioneers, 3-0. In the seventh minute, the Lions scored first when Wagner tapped the ball through the legs of Pioneer senior goalie Meg Davies. Afterward, the Lions’ offense thrashed the Pioneers’ defense with numerous penalty corners. The Pioneers only drew two shots in the 18th minute. Junior goalie Kelly Schlupp kicked out a shot from Pioneer sophomore forward Carly Satter. The Lions kept working on their penalty corners until freshman forward Taylor Barrett tipped in a goal from the far right post with an assist from Cimilluca.
“We practice (penalty corners) a lot,” Pfluger said. “Regardless of any position, each player is successful at their role.”
The second half featured more success in the Lions’ routine penalty corner play. In the 48th minute Smith received a pass from Barrett’s penalty corner and whammed a shot from the top of the circle. With a 3-0 lead, the Lions continuously pressured the pioneer defense. Wagner, Smith, freshman forward Elizabeth Morrison and junior defender Alexa Magnotta all recorded shots. However, Pioneer goalie Davies held them off with eight saves. The Lions finished with a total of 28 shots and 14 penalty corners while holding the Pioneers to three shots.
In the NJAC championship match, the Lions withstood a furious second half comeback to defeat Rowan University, 3-2. The Profs immediately began to pressure the Lions when Schlupp saved three shots. In the 18th minute, Cimilluca drove in four consecutive shots that were saved by Profs’ sophomore goalie Carly DeMarco. Despite DeMarco’s saves, Barrett was able to score in the 20th minute with an assist from Morrison. At the end of the first period, Morrison scored her own goal to extend the lead to 2-0.
The second period featured a late resurgence from the Profs. After a few missed penalty corners, Douglas scored in the 58th minute off an assist from Smith. The Profs promptly responded when sophomore forward Abbie Tucker scored off a penalty corner pass from senior forward Marisa Marini. The Profs mimicked an identical play at the 67th minute when Tucker drove a goal off of Marini’s penalty corner. As the clock approached zero, Schlupp saved a last-minute shot from Prof freshman midfielder Rachel Galante to seal the win.
With the victory, the Lions have claimed their second consecutive NJAC championship along with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. As the team gears up to defend their national title, the College has earned a spot to host a regional round of the national tournament, beginning their playoff journey at home.