Women’s Soccer Advances to PSAC Semifinals
By Ronald Hanaki
The ESU women’s soccer team beat the West Chester Rams 4-3 on penalty kicks after there was no scoring in regulation and double overtime to advance to the PSAC semifinals on an unusually balmy Tuesday afternoon in November at West Chester’s Rockwell Field.
In a dramatic game that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats, ESU freshman back Danielle Curran made the final winning penalty kick for the Warriors in the bottom of the sixth and decisive frame.
With the win, the defending PSAC champion Warriors will travel to Gannon and play No. 3 Slippery Rock tomorrow. The winner of the semifinal between ESU and Slippery Rock will play the winner of the other semifinal pitting Gannon and Edinboro for the PSAC Championship on Sunday, Nov. 8.
Last Friday, ESU needed to win and beat top-ranked and previously undefeated Gannon to qualify for the postseason PSAC Tournament. Down 0-1 at halftime, ESU came from behind and beat Gannon 4-2 to earn a berth in the PSAC quarterfinals.
With the win over Gannon, the Warriors became the seventh seed and had to travel to play No. 2 West Chester on the road.
Despite the ostensible disparity in seeding, this game was going to be close. The preseason PSAC poll ranked West Chester first and ESU second.
Before the game, head coach Rob Berkowitz gave a brief scouting report on West Chester.
“West Chester is very solid in the back, and they have good attacking players. But we match up well with them. We don’t have to change what we’re doing,” said Berkowitz.
Berkowtiz continued, “We are excited to be back in the tournament. All the teams have one chance one way or another. We have played well against West Chester, and we plan on playing the same way.”
“Our team is as healthy as we’ve ever been all season. All of our starters are available, and we like our chances,” added Berkowitz.
Earlier on Oct. 13, West Chester beat ESU 1-0 at Eiler-Martin Stadium.
“We lost 1-0. It was a dead-even game. We had good chances, but we kind of got unlucky in that game,” said Berkowitz.
The rematch between the two soccer powerhouses turned out to be a tale of two halves. West Chester was the more aggressive team in the first half.
The Rams outshot the Warriors 7-3 in the first half and kept sophomore goalkeeper Jules Harris busy. Harris had to make four saves in the first half to keep the game scoreless.
After the intermission, the Warriors became the aggressors and outshot West Chester 3-1 in the second half. However, neither team could find the back of the net, and the score was tied 0-0 after regulation.
The Warriors only had one scoring chance in the two over-times that followed. Senior forward and team co-captain Sammi Jo Hughes took a shot that went wide in the second overtime.
ESU’s Harris continued her outstanding play by making three saves in double over-time to send the game to penalty kicks.
Penalty kicks are soccer’s version of the shootout at the OK corral. For the Warriors, it would turn out to be a coming out party for the freshmen and sophomores.
In the first frame, West Chester’s Sara Bennis made the first penalty kick for the Rams. ESU freshman midfielder Holly Nicolardi’s penalty kick missed, giving West Chester an early 1-0 lead.
In the second frame, West Chester’s Lexi Brown and ESU sophomore midfielder Christina Shannon both made their penalty kicks. The Rams held a 2-1 edge in penalty kicks.
In the third frame, West Chester’s Julia Kirkpatrick missed, but ESU freshman back Kyra Dubost gave the Warriors the equalizer when she converted on her chance. The penalty kick tally now stood even at 2-2.Both West Chester and ESU missed their penalty kicks in the fourth frame.
In the fifth frame, both West Chester’s Erika Schrock and ESU sophomore midfielder Sammi Ortiz made their penalty kicks. The score was now tied 3-3.
In the sixth and decisive frame, West Chester’s Linzi Wolfe missed her penalty kick. That meant that if the Warriors were able to score on their next penalty kick, ESU would win the game and keep their hopes for a second consecutive PSAC championship alive.
ESU’s Danielle Curran placed the ball on the ground and calmly approached her shot and blasted it past West Chester junior goalkeeper Alex Srolis for the victory.
The win gave ESU the right to play Slippery Rock in the PSAC semifinal on Friday.The other PSAC semifinal game is between no. 1 Gannon and No. 4 Edinboro.
The PSAC Championship will be played at Gannon on Sunday, Nov. 8.
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