The women’s soccer team advanced to the finals of the ECAC Championships on Sunday for the first time since 1995 but fell to host St. John’s 2-1 on penalty kicks. The Red’s 2-1 win against Providence on Saturday in the semifinal game was also decided on penalty kicks. The booters had to contend with poor weather in addition to the artificial turf on Belson Field.
“We finished the year playing our best soccer,” said head coach Berhane Andeberhan. “I only wished we could have played on grass.”
The Red, not used to the turf field, was dominated by Providence for the first 15 minutes of the game. The booters were kept in the game by senior goalkeeper Kristin Lotito, who was making her second start of the season. Neither team was able to score in the first half, with the Red outshooting the Friars eight to six.
Junior Emily Knight opened up the scoring for the Red in the second half. After a free kick by freshman Ali Gombar, Knight sent a volley past Providence goalie Caroline Haines in the 70th minute for her fourth goal of the season.
“Emily Knight, by far, was the best player in the tournament. She should have gotten at least four or five goals, she was unbelievable. She hit the cross bar and the post many times, she played phenomenally,” said Andeberhan.
Providence would not go down so easily, though. After a questionable foul call on junior co-captain Lindsay Rovegno led to a free kick in the Cornell zone, Lauren Ritchie sent a header past Lotito to notch the equalizer for the Friars in the 86th minute.
The game was sent into overtime, but neither team was able to find the back of the net. Cornell put forth an outstanding effort, registering five shots in the two ten-minute overtime periods.
“I have never seen the team play the way they did in the overtime against Providence. It was the highest quality of soccer I saw this year,” said Andeberhan.
With the tie still not broken after 20 minutes of sudden death overtime, the contest would be decided by penalty kicks. The Red won the coin flip, and senior co-captain Sarah Olsen sent a low shot to the right past Haines for the first score in the shootout. Kerry O’Malley’s shot went wide right for the Friars, and Gombar put the Red up 2-0 after beating Haines top right. BriAnne Bruni sent her shot wide left for Providence, and senior Cailin Rice launched a shot to the lower left. Lotito saved Maura Robertson’s shot, clinching the victory for the Red.
“We worked on shooting situations on Thursday from different angles, and one of those situations was penalty kicks. The team said this really helped them during the games,” said Andeberhan.
Lotito finished the game with 11 saves for the Red, while Haines had 12 for Providence. The booters outshot the Friars 20 to 17, with Knight registering 12 of Cornell’s shots.
The Red got into the game quicker against a much tougher St. John’s squad but was outshot 10-6 in the first half.
“During the St. John’s game, it was even for most of the match, then Knight took over in the latter part of the second half,” remarked Andeberhan.
Beating three defenders, Knight launched a shot that hit the crossbar. Moments later, she put a header past Red Storm goalie Tina Fogg off of a Gombar corner kick to put the Red up with 10 minutes remaining.
With the game winding down, St. John’s sent all its players upfield to try and pressure the Cornell defense. The back line held firm at first, but Erin Henderson collected a loose ball at the six-yard line and sent it past Lotito for the equalizer with only 55 seconds left in regulation.
The Red Storm did not register a shot in the first overtime, but won two corners in the second overtime. With neither team scoring in overtime, the Red faced a shootout for the second straight game.
“Taking penalty kicks is all about mental attitude, so I didn’t have a set group before the game,” said Andeberhan. “There were lots of volunteers for the first game’s shootout, but the players felt a lot more pressure during the second game.”
Olsen went first again for the Red, and sent one by Fogg, but Andrea Coukoulis answered back by beating Lotito on the left. Gombar’s shot was stopped, and Henderson converted on her attempt to put the Red Storm up 2-1. Rice’s shot was saved by Fogg, but Jen Pugsley missed on her shot, keeping the score 2-1. After Fogg made a diving save to stop freshman Phela Townsend’s shot, Kati Schantz put the deciding goal past Lotito to clinch the game for St. John’s.
Despite the loss, the Red, especially knight and Lotito, put forth some great performances.
“Kristin is the ultimate team player. She was so supportive of Katie [Thomas] all season, and she has risen to the occasion every time she has played. She saved us in the first minutes against Providence and St. John’s, stopped two breakaways in the Providence game and one in the St. John’s game,” remarked Andeberhan. “We were hoping that she would go out in a blaze of glory, and she did.”
The Red finishes the season with a 9-6-2 record, its highest win total since 1999. Knight finished as the team’s leading scorer with five goals and three assists.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach