Women's Soccer Claims ECAC New England Championship In Shootout
Worcester, MA --- Senior Danielle Clifford (Attleboro, MA) scored the lone goal for top-seeded Worcester State in a 1-1 draw with #2 Keene State and she also had the clinching tally in a 4-3 shootout to help the Lancers earn their first-ever ECAC Division III New England Women's Soccer Tournament Championship.
Clifford would earn Most Outstanding Player honors for today's heroics and for netting the game-winning tally in a 1-0 semifinal triumph over fourth-seeded UMass Boston yesterday. The Blue and Gold end their outstanding season with an overall record of 14-5-3.
The Owls, who came into the contest as the two-time defending ECAC New England Champions, end their 2011 campaign at 15-7-3.
After much back and forth play to start off the contest, the Lancers scored first in the 21st minute when freshman Therese Morss (Marion, MA) found a seam and sent a nifty pass from the right side of the box to Clifford who finished the play right in front of the net for her ninth marker this season.
Keene State promptly responded less than three minutes later when sophomore Brittany Boscarino (Ellington, CT) slipped past the back line and scored on a middle feed from senior Sia Karamourtopolous (Fremont, NH). The tally was Boscarino's third of the year.
With the game knotted 1-1, first-year Kelly Burrell (Cumberland, ME) and sophomore Hayley Kenyon (Exeter, RI) each had chances at the Lancer net in the final 10 minutes of the period at close range, but they were both stopped by senior keeper Angieszaka Sychtysz (Warren, MA).
WSU senior Sarah Rafferty (Uxbridge, MA) was also alone on a breakaway in the 39th minute, but the attempt sailed to the left.
The second stanza would see a total 12 shots by both teams as much of the action in the frame occurred in the midfield. Clifford nearly scored possible game-winning marker with eight minutes to go as she was open from 10-yards away, but her bid was just to the left of the net.
In the first extra session, Morss was by herself after a long kick from second-year Makayla Moran (Leominster, MA), but senior Megan Dempsey (E. Weymouth, MA) cut the ball off to end the play.
Keene State had two great bids in the second overtime when Boscarino's attempt in the 105th minute was just to the left of the post and again 60 seconds later when Berthiaume's blast was too high, following a throw-in.
In the shootout, both teams made their two of their first three attempts to go into the fifth round knotted 2-2.
Drama ensued for the two squads in their second bid when WSU sophomore Laura Maunsell's (Medford, MA) attempt rang the post and again as senior Melissa Dempsey's (E. Weymouth, MA) laser was wide left. Fourth-year Christina Vernaci's (Saugus, MA) third try for Worcester State also went into the net past the keeper after it appeared that it had been rejected.
With the game on the line in the final round, Keene State junior Joan Hamel (Weare, NH) looked to put her squad on top, but Sychtysz diagnosed the ball perfectly and stopped it in its tracks. That would set the stage for Clifford who would connect for the match clinching goal.
Sychtysz turned aside six shots for the Lancers while Dempsey made four saves for the Owls.
In what proved to be an even contest, Worcester State held a slim 18-17 lead in shots while Keene State led in corners, 4-2.
The crown for the Blue and Gold marks their third-ever EC AC championship as they share the honor with the 1990 softball team and the 2001 football squad. The title is the third for the MASCAC as Salem State went back-to-back in 2002 and 2003.
WSU is now 1-0-3 all-time in the ECAC New England Tournament including a first-round 3-3 draw that was lost in PK's to Babson in 1998 and their 1-1 quarterfinal tie with eighth-seeded University of New England on Wednesday that was won in a 5-4 shootout.
Today's game marks a fitting end to an outstanding career for Clifford who wraps up four-years with 26 goals and 19 assists for 71 points, which is good for fourth-place on the all-time scoring list.
Photo 1 - Team with ECAC Championship banner
Photo 2 - Senior co-captains Danielle Clifford and Nikki Scott with ECAC Communications Director Patrick Stewart, Athletics Director Sue Chapman and the championship trophy
Photo 3 - Clifford with Chapman and Most Outstanding Player trophy