Lasers Repeat as GNAC Champions and are NCAA Tournament Bound
NEWTON, MA— The Lasell College women's soccer team is the 2011 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament Champion after a 2-1 defeat of Suffolk University on Saturday afternoon at Taylor Field. Jessica Taylor (Standish, ME) scored the game-winning goal at 59:36 to give Lasell their second consecutive title at the conclusion of the 17th annual GNAC Championship Tournament, as well as the automatic qualifier into the NCAA Tournament.
The Lasers entered the tournament as the number one seed and improved their overall record to 16-4-1 with the victory. Suffolk was slated as the GNAC's seventh seed and concludes their season with an 11-8-1 record.
Taylor earned Tournament Co-MVP honors for her heroics in today's contest alongside Lasell's goalkeeper Elizabeth Stickley (Mashpee, MA) who made seven saves to clinch her second championship, and her second co-MVP honor. Molly Clarke (Berlin, CT), Jordynn Frollo (Uxbridge, MA), and Jill Greaney (Holyoke, MA) each also picked up All-Tournament team honors for their effort in the Lasers' Championship.
Despite Lasell's edge in shots, totaling 23-13 throughout the game, Suffolk kept in step with the Lasers by holding off the offense through the first 38 minutes. The Rams defensive line of Taylor Miranda (Smithtown, NY), Meghan McHale (Halifax, MA), Hannah McNulty (Stowe, VT), and Lisa Gambale (Swampscott, MA) were pivotal protecting Suffolk's backfield.
The game started out strong with both sides getting chances, although neither was able to capitalize. In the 4th minute, Taylor almost got the Lasers on the board as she pulled Suffolk goalkeeper Melissa Brouillette (Shelton, CT) out of net but then lost control of the ball before she could chase it down to score on the open net. One minute later, Mary Farley (Middleboro, MA) drove in a shot on goal after a corner kick by Meredith Hessler (Middletown, RI), but McHale made a great team save on the opposite post for the Rams to keep Lasell from going ahead.
For Suffolk, Mia Dangora (Billerica, MA) took the first shot of the game at 4:08 and Monica Wolf (Ballston Spa, NY) put the Rams' initial shot-on-goal at Stickley, at 9:03. Another Farley shot at 20:27 nearly reached the goal line but this time Miranda headed away the shot for a second defensive team save.
Lasell's next close-call was launched at 23:46, when Jamie Harris (Lynnfield, MA) was found unmarked on the right flank and footed a bomb at the top ninety of the net. Brouillette stretched into an outstanding punching save over the top of the goal.
With just seven minutes left to play in the scoreless first half, Lasell finally made contact with the twine. At the 38 minute mark, Bridget Lynch (Dover, NH) intercepted a Ram pass at the midfield and drove down the right side line to beat out multiple defenders before firing a cross-net shot into the opposite corner of Suffolk's net. Lynch's goal was the ninth of the season for the current GNAC Rookie of the Week, and put Lasell on top 1-0.
Wolf nearly leveled the score at the 40 minute mark, but Clarke made a great block on defense for Lasell to keep the one goal lead heading into halftime.
The second half opened with a penalty kick for the Lasers after a foul in the box. Clarke sent the shot towards the right corner but was thwarted by the post. The rebound bounced back to Taylor who released a grounded shot at the left corner, but Brouillette made yet another great diving save to keep the Lasers from pulling ahead further.
The tides changed for the Rams ten minutes into the second half, after having been held to just one shot during that time span while the Lasers got off four shots and three corner kicks in that stretch. It was on Suffolk's second shot of the half, at 55:02, that Wolf tied the game up on a pass from Leslie Hayden (Ross, CA). Wolf's goal was a center shot from the top of the 18 which soared high and just out of reach of Stickley to knock off the cross bar and into the back of the net.
The one-all game did not last long as only five minutes later, the Lasers regained control of the lead when Taylor drove down the midfield and challenged Brouillette with a one-on-one attempt from six yards out. Brouillette blocked the initial shot but Taylor corralled her own rebound and tipped the ball into the twine for the 2-1 edge which would prove to be the deciding tally.
Brouillette made eight total saves in a noteworthy effort, despite taking the loss. Stickley added seven saves to her culmulative season stats, notching a total of 12 saves during three GNAC Tournament. Stickley and the Lasers are currently on a five-game winning streak as they head into the NCAA tournament.
The Lasers won their first ever GNAC Championship and traveled to the NCAA for the first time in 2010. They will await word on the first round of the 2011 NCAA Division III Women's Soccer Tournament which will be released next week.
GNAC ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM
Co-MVP-- Jessica Taylor & Elizabeth Stickley
Shannon Skidmore—Albertus Magnus
Meghan Loughman—Albertus Magnus
Melissa Maddaloni-- Saint Joseph CT
Holly Mirabella-- Saint Joseph CT