BALTIMORE, Md. – The Connecticut College women's soccer team played their hearts out in the opening round of the program's third NCAA Tournament appearance over the last four years, but Wilkes was able to capitalize on a bicycle kick in the second half and held on to earn a 1-0 win over the Camels in an edge-of-your-seat thriller on Saturday afternoon at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field. With the victory, the Colonels advanced to compete against the host Blue Jays in the second round tomorrow afternoon.
Connecticut College (12-4-1) possessed the ball in its offensive third for most of the first half. Senior Alexa Tribelli (Cranston, R.I.) created two early scoring opportunities by firing a shot high in the seventh minute and then sending a dangerous corner kick that was headed just wide right of the goal through a scrum of players from both sides.
Michelle Medina (Hartford, Conn.) had the best opportunity at the midway point of the opening half when she unleashed a shot from inside the box, but her blast which beat netminder Courtney Stanley clanked off the far left post and was cleared away. A header by senior Lauren Steele (Westford, Mass.) off a free kick taken by classmate Mackenzie Kingston (Charlotte, Vt.) was also unsuccessful, and the teams headed to halftime in a scoreless deadlock.
Wilkes (14-3-3), which was limited to attempting just three harmless shots in the first half, tried to get on the board shortly after the break when it was awarded a corner kick. But after the ball sailed past traffic, Catherine Gregoire tried to punch in a second chance that would be corralled by Camel senior goalkeeper Bryanna Montalvo (Rocky Hill, Conn.). Junior Alex Baltazar (Ludlow, Mass.) then took a diving shot on the other end, and Stanley was able to come away with the save.
The Camels thought they got on the board shortly afterwards on what would have been an own goal when Baltazar's attempt created a crazy bounce off the foot of Gregoire, a Colonel defender, and appeared to land in the upper 90 of the net. The ball, however, was ruled to have hit the crossbar of the football goal post before landing on top of the netting.
In an unprecedented sequence of events, the Colonels then got on the scoreboard first on a play that was ironically started by Gregoire less than five minutes after the Baltazar shot. The freshman defender sent a cross to Micaela Oliverio, who stopped the ball with her chest and then sent it to the right corner of the net on a bicycle kick in the 57th minute.
Connecticut College didn't give up and had several other golden opportunities to tie the match, beginning when Gregoire was issued a red card on a hand ball off a shot by freshman Kat Norton (Hampton, Conn.) that was on its way to the back of the net in the 69th minute. Senior defender Alex Bukovac (Winnetka, Ill.) then nearly scored twice, but her penalty shot was kick saved by Stanley, and another attempt less than three minutes later bounced off the right post.
Despite having to compete with 10 players for the remainder of the match, Wilkes was able to keep the Camels off the board to survive and advance to the next round.
Montalvo was dealt the tough setback between the pipes after making two saves for Connecticut College, which outshot its opponent by a 15-5 margin and had an 8-2 advantage in corner kick opportunities. Stanley picked up her 11th shutout of the season by making five saves for the Colonels.
Connecticut College completed another one of its best seasons in school history by making its third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four years. The graduating senior class consisting of Livi Block (New York, N.Y.), Caroline Kelleher (Holden, Mass.), Michelle Medina (Hartford, Conn.), Nicole Medina (Hartford, Conn.), Bukovac, KIngston, Montalvo, Steele and Tribelli also helped the program win 41 matches and capture the institution's first NESCAC championship in any sport while playing a major role in three postseason runs during their illustrious careers.