By ADMIR DURAKOVIC
Two goals from set pieces were enough for FDU to send Bryant home and set up a NEC Championship match against Saint Francis University, the second seed team in the conference finals. With their good run of form, a championship win seemed to be in the cards for the Knights.
But the soccer gods had other ideas.
FDU started the match on the backpedal for the second game in a row, letting SFU dominate the first half. The Red Flash only outshot FDU in the first half by four to three, but they controlled much more of the possession and threatened on a few more occasions, only to have the plays ended by an off side call.
Just as they did against Bryant, FDU started the second half dominating play. Only 43 seconds into the second half, FDU sophomore forward Daria Jones forced a save from Red Flash redshirt sophomore keeper Julia Hernan. The next 10 minutes saw FDU register four consecutive unanswered shots. FDU outshot SFU 12-3 in the second period, but neither side was able to score and the game ended 0-0 in regulation.
“I think (SFU) played a great game,” Head coach Teepe said after the game. “The game was a tale of two halves. SFU was better in the first, and we dominated the second half.”
With the game tied, both teams got ready for two 10-minute periods of golden goal overtime. The rain picked up by the time the first period of overtime started, and it had an obvious effect on the match, as both teams struggled to hold onto possession in overtime. Both teams only managed to re a shot each
in the first 10 minutes of overtime. The game remained scoreless heading into the second overtime period.
The second period saw both teams register three attempts on goal in a thrilling final 10-minute conclusion to the tie. SFU should’ve ended the game in the 103 minute when a rebound from a Fitzgerald save fell to SFU freshman Mariana Jaleca. Jaleca had a seemingly open goal, but hit the right post to keep the game alive. With neither team able to break the deadlock after 110 minutes, the game concluded with a penalty shootout.
The first round of penalty shots saw both teams fail to find the back of the net as both SFU’s Shannon McGinnis and FDU’s Dara Battistoni shot their penalties wide of the goal. The next two rounds saw four consecutive goals as both teams entered the fourth round tied at 2-2. SFU’s Dakota Graham hammered her penalty home to give her team the lead in the shootout. In the same round, SFU keeper Hernan came up with a big diving save down to her left to deny FDU’s Elma Kolenovic’s penalty. With the fifth round ending with both SFU’s Natalie Spangler and FDU’s Grit Broening missing their penalties and hitting the crossbar, Saint Francis University be-came the NEC champions after winning on penalties 3-2.
The Knights finished their season with a 9-8-4 overall record. Fitzgerald, Reinhardt, and Neri made the All-Tournament team. “(Penalty kicks) do not change the fact that we are champions,” Coach Teepe said. “Both teams were champions today. We played them twice, and we tied them both times. Unfortunately, at some point, someone has to advance, and someone has to stay home.”