For the second year in a row, the women’s soccer team lost in the Landmark Conference Championship. The Royals lost 1-0 to Catholic University Saturday in Washington, D.C., a day shy of the anniversary of losing to Drew University in penalty kicks in last season’s championship.
Catholic’s goal came in the 22nd minute on a tap-in by sophomore midfielder Alexis Garcia after the ball deflected off the goal post.
Junior forward Gianna Vitolo said the Royals had chances to score, and Catholic’s goal was unlucky for the Royals.
“We came out with the right attitude, we came out confident, we did everything right, but I think that we needed to finish a couple of the balls in front of the net,” Vitolo said. “It was just unlucky and luck just wasn’t on our side which, I guess, that happens sometimes.”
The team got off to a slow start this season and saw itself at 2-3 after five games. This start was surprising, considering the recent dominance of the women’s soccer program. Going into this season, head coach Colleen Pivirotto led the women’s soccer team to the playoffs in each of her six seasons, making the championship game in four and winning the championship in three (2010, 2011 and 2012).
After this start to the season, it was a stretch to predict the usual women’s soccer playoff run. But, make no mistake, this year’s team did not give up.
Junior co-captain and first-team all-conference defender Jasmine Sconciafurno said the team improved as the season went on.
“At the beginning of the season and towards the middle, we weren’t sure if we were going to make it to the playoffs … We ended up making it to the playoffs, through semis and into the championship game,” Sconciafurno said. “It shows the amount of character, heart and passion each player has.”
The team finished 10-8-2 overall and 4-2-1 in Landmark Conference play and nearly won the championship. For many teams in the conference, this would be considered an outstanding season, but the women’s soccer team is used to winning, especially in the conference playoffs.
Head coach Pivirotto said although the team is disappointed about losing in the championship, the season was still a success.
“Getting to the championship game is always a goal of ours, and this is our fifth year in a row getting there. I think that’s a major accomplishment that shouldn’t be overlooked,” Pivirotto said. “It was unfortunate that we didn’t get the result, but still over the course of the season we saw a lot of positives, and the girls are really strong fighters, and we’re really proud of them.”
To get to the championship game, the Royals defeated newcomer to the conference, Elizabethtown College, in the semifinals Nov. 5. The Royals lost to Elizabethtown in their last regular-season game 4-3 at Fitzpatrick Field Nov. 1, but showed resilience to rebound less than a week later with a 2-1 overtime win over E-Town in the semifinals. Pivirotto said both contests were physical and emotional.
Junior forward/midfielder Michaela Arbus got her only two starts of the season in the playoffs and assisted on both goals in the semifinal game. She said the team always had faith in itself.
“I’m going to remember that we never gave up no matter what … Even to get to the finals after the season we had,” Arbus said.
Junior forward Sarah Andrews was the co-leading scorer on the team with sophomore forward Christina Akalski with five goals. Andrews said the Royals and Drew were evenly matched.
“We definitely deserved to win that game,” she said. “Our team is the closest it’s ever been.”
Four seniors from the women’s team are graduating including forwards Katie O’Hanlon and Kelsey O’Kane, midfielder Ellen Walker and manager Courtney O’Kane.
Junior all-conference defender Erin Casey will return as co-captain along with Sconciafurno. Casey said she is excited to come back with the experience she gained from this season.
“This year was kind of like a learning opportunity for both me and Jas (Sconciafurno), so we got to see what worked, what didn’t work,” she said. “We’re gunning for that conference title next year.”
The current juniors won the Landmark Conference Championship their first year at The University, but have since suffered heartbreak in the next two championship games.
Junior defender Megan Manzo said the team will have ample leadership next season from the eight juniors, including herself.
“Soccer comes first for a lot of us, so I really think that we’ll be able to come back and play really hard for each other and for our team,” Manzo said. “Our junior class is ready to take on the leadership.”
Nov. 13, 2014