WOMEN'S SOCCER STUNS #8 EASTERN CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY IN PENALTY KICKS TO ADVANCE TO LEC CHAMPIONSHIP
Nov. 4, 2010
MANSFIELD, CT - Following a 1-1 draw after 110 minutes of intense women's soccer action at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex, the University of Massachusetts Boston outscored Eastern Connecticut State University, 3-1, in a penalty kick tiebreaker to advance to its first ever Little East Conference Championship game to be played on Sunday, November 8 at a site to be determined. UMass converted three of its four penalty kicks while Eastern missed three of its four attempts. With the tie, the Beacons are now 13-4-4 on the season while the Warriors remain unbeaten, standing at 15-0-4, but fail to advance and defend their 2009 LEC tournament title.
The Warriors, who won the coin toss and elected to kick second, fell behind 1-0 when junior forward Kristin Mulry (Holbrook, MA) buried her attempt to the upper right corner of the net for UMass Boston. Eastern Connecticut State sophomore forward Chelsea Downer (Colchester, CT) evened the score at 1-1 in extra kicks with a low, hard strike to the bottom left hand corner of the net. Both teams missed their second attempts as Warriors junior keeper Theresa Pagnozzi (Waterford, CT) made a beautiful diving save to her left to give the home squad a bit of a momentum swing but that momentum shifted right back to the Beacons when freshman goalkeeper Katie Coscia (Pittsfield, MA) stonewalled ESCU freshman midfielder Taylor Buchanan (Ellington, MA) to keep the shootout locked at 1-1. It was sweet revenge for Coscia who earlier in the season surrender three goals to Buchanan in Eastern Connecticut's 3-0 victory over UMass Boston on October 2. Up next for the Beacons, junior midfielder Molly Kuchar (Ashville, NC) riffled a shot right through Pagnozzi to give the visitors the 2-1 edge which would prove to be all they'd need. The Warriors sent junior midfielder Jo-Ann Merheb (Bethel, CT) to the line to try and knot the kicks at 2-2 but Merheb's shot ricocheted of the crossbar and back into play to help the Beacons maintain a 2-1 advantage. Freshman midfielder Samantha Cristoforo (Rockland, MA) made it a 3-1 advantage with a strike just inside the right post putting the pressure on Eastern Connecticut's final two kickers, forcing them to make both attempts to keep the match alive. Sophomore defender Rachel Cutler's (Guilford, CT) attempt was right at Coscia who made the save to propel UMass Boston to its first ever Little East Conference Championship appearance.
The game appeared to be all but over for the Beacons who trailed 1-0 late in the second half but found a way to even the score. With 2:34 remaining in regulation, Mulry was able to coral a bounding ball in the midfield and from about 25 yards out, fire away a high-arching shot towards the Warriors goal. Pagnozzi was caught off her line and the ball bounced over the keeper, onto the goal line and into the net to even the game at 1-1 and force the overtime frames. The score was Mulry's ninth tally on the season and her 40th career goal.
One minute into the first overtime, the Warriors had a chance to end the match but Buchanan's uncontested shot from 12 yards out in space sailed wide right. Later in the first extra frame with less than one minute left, Buchanan took a free kick from just outside the box that she hammered right in Coscia's arms.
UMass Boston nearly won the match five minutes into the overtime session, but Eastern freshman back Megan Godwin (Manchester, CT) cleared a rolling ball off the line that resulted when Pagnozzi could not hold onto the ball after meeting Mulry at a loose ball scrum in the box.
In a game played in steady rain and on a slick artificial surface, Eastern had taken a 1-0 lead in the 75th minute when J. Merheb beat Coscia from in close on a cross from senior back Lauren Hickey (Southwick, MA). ECSU Sophomore midfielder Kelly Wallace (South Windsor, CT) started the play by gaining possession in the middle of the field and sending the ball to Hickey on the right wing. Hickey carried it toward the end line before feeding Merheb in the middle of the box for her fifth goal of the season. The score ended Coscia's scoreless minutes streak at 514:39, a new program record spanning over six matches, topping the mark set last season by Jessica Penta at 509:28.
Coscia ended the match with nine saves for UMass Boston while Pagnozzi registered five in between the pipes for ECSU.
With the draw, the Warriors extend their unbeaten match streak to 19 games but Eastern Connecticut State, who is ranked eighth in the most recent national poll and first in the New England region, will now have to wait to hear for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament to extend its season.
The Beacons, who fell to the Warriors by a 4-0 score in last year's semifinals, will now anxiously await to see whom their opponent in Sunday's final will be as the other semifinal matchup between the second seeded Western Connecticut State University Warriors and the third seeded Keene State College Owls was postponed to Friday afternoon due to unplayable field conditions this afternoon in Danbury, CT.