Lady Eagles go down and out
AU Women's Soccer fell to Navy, 4-1, in the Patriot League Championship on Reeves Field Sunday afternoon, ending the Eagles' hopes of back-to-back league titles and a return to the NCAA tournament.
Navy forward Amelia Sheveland's two goals in the 26th and 80th minutes sandwiched a Navy scoring barrage that didn't quite reflect the match on the pitch. In between, she assisted forward Stacey Finley's 59th minute goal, while substitute Sarah Hessinger scored a backbreaking third goal in the 74th minute.
AU sophomore forward Marcela Ricupero scored for the Eagles in the 82nd minute latching onto a rebound of a blistering strike from senior Anabel Jimenez.
"I don't think the score reflected the majority of the game," said AU head coach Michael Brady. "We gifted them all four goals. They still had to finish them, and you have to give them credit. But it wasn't like they strung four, five or six passes together and then scored on the end of it."
It was a credit to the Eagles that, despite what was a somewhat shocking second half, Ricupero and Jimenez pulled a goal back. And when Jimenez sprinted into the goal to retrieve the ball and restart play, there was clearly still life in the AU side.
"I've been on club teams where we've come back from 3-0 down to win games," Jimenez said. "[When we scored] I still thought we had a chance to win, even if it was a slim one. But there probably wasn't enough time."
In the end, AU hadn't the reserves physically to push for a comeback. Until late in the match, the Eagles basically played using only one substitute, freshman forward Jana Lee, while Navy had used several before halftime.
"Their depth is huge," Brady said after the match. "They didn't lose anything with their substitutes, and I think two or three of their subs were better than the players they replaced. That's the difference between us and them right now."
Sunday marked the farewell for Jimenez and AU senior goalkeeper Lauren Wohl. Senior defender Jillian Savani may return, because she has a year of eligibility remaining after walking-on in her sophomore year.
"It's an emotional time right now," Brady said. "And you can't help but think of our seniors. Jillian is a big part of this team and we hope she returns. Anabel has the heart of a lion. She will be dearly missed and Lauren has done a great job for us in goal this year, and she's grown so much as a soccer player."
"I think our class has done well," Jimenez said of herself and fellow seniors. "It's a good achievement for us to win our first PL regular season title, and to be able to host the tournament. I still think we're better than Navy, but we were just unlucky today."
Navy out-shot AU 15-11 on the afternoon. Both Wohl and Navy 'keeper Kim Bonafede finished the game with three saves. The Eagles end the 2003 season at 10-8-1 with the loss, while Navy moves to 17-4-1 with the win. Navy becomes the first women's team from their school in any sport to qualify for an NCAA tournament.
AU reached the finals through a scrappy 1-0 victory over Army in a late-morning semifinal on Friday. Freshman midfielder Christina Gonzalez scored AU's lone goal in the 25th minute of the first half, latching onto a right sided cross from Jimenez. Gonzalez finished clinically in the first postseason game of her collegiate career, weighting a dipping volley over Army 'keeper Rebecca Garcia from about 15 yards.
"I was nervous, I'm not too good in those situations," Gonzalez said of her goal. "I just stayed calm and shot towards the far corner, and I ended up chipping over [the 'keeper's] head."
AU dominated the first half, out-shooting the Black Knights 12-0, and was unlucky not to go further ahead by halftime, having already forced Garcia into seven first-half saves. But Army fought back in the second, coming close to leveling the score on a couple occasions.
In the 74th minute, AU senior 'keeper Lauren Wohl thwarted Army forward Alison Mulnix's effort from the right side of the penalty area. And one minute from full time, Wohl forced Black Knight midfielder Delaney Brown to shoot wide of the near post after she broke un-marked down the left wing.
AU was not without second half chances, and out-shot the Black Nights 4-3 in the final 45 minutes. But with the final whistle, AU was relieved to have gone through to the final, not frustrated to be held to just one goal.
"In the first half, we played some great soccer," Brady said. "But some sloppy finishing on our part kept them in it. That's the nature of the beast, in a playoff semi-final, and a 1-0 game, they still know they can win. In the end we got the result we needed, which was the only important thing today."
AU had beaten the Black Knights only five days prior to their playoff win, in a 2-1 overtime affair that ended on the boot of sophomore midfielder Simone Konig. Army ends their season with a 9-10-0 record.