Women’s Soccer Gets on Doorstep of PL Tourney Bid

Womens Soccer Gets on Doorstep of PL Tourney Bid

Mike LeClair

Coming into the season, Colgate Head Coach Kathy Brawn said that the team hoped to qualify for the Patriot League Tournament and perhaps the NCAA Tournament. Well, the Raiders have moved significantly closer to achieving that first goal following a six-point weekend in Pennsylvania with wins over Patriot League bottom-feeders Lafayette and Lehigh.

The Raiders headed to Easton for their Friday night match against the Lafayette Leopards, who came into the match winless in the conference and only two wins to their credit all season. It did not take long for Colgate’s superior quality to shine through, as junior midfielder/forward Jessica Bitsack put Colgate on the board just 13 minutes into the match. Bitsack’s fourth goal of the year was the product of a failed Lafayette clearance from a corner kick, and she had no hesitation in punishing the Leopards’ lackluster defense. Colgate’s defense quickly bunkered down, not allowing a single shot on goal in the first half, which led to four first half shots on goal. The stingy defense and continued offensive threat paid off again in the 44th minute, when a rebound popped out to Colgate’s junior defender Christine Walker, who hammered her shot into the back of, in the words of the great Tommy Smyth, “the ol’ onion bag.” Walker’s second goal of the season gave Colgate a very comfortable 2-0 lead heading into halftime.

The second half was a continuation of the first, as Colgate continued to control the play. Colgate’s first-year goalkeeper Rebecca Michlin was called into action just once, on a fairly dangerous free kick from Lafayette senior Lauren Hinkel. However dangerous that scoring opportunity may have been, the Raiders put the game beyond all doubt in the 66th minute, when first-year forward Ellie Schmidt’s pass found the left foot of junior midfielder Jillian Arnault, who slotted home her third goal of the season, giving Colgate the decisive 3-0 advantage and three crucial points in their pursuit of a top-four spot in the Patriot League.

Sunday afternoon presented another important match for the Raiders, as they traveled to Bethlehem to take on Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks were fighting for their postseason lives, as a loss or tie would officially eliminate them from Patriot League Tournament participation. Knowing full well the importance of the match, Lehigh came out firing, putting six shots on goal in the first half, but Michlin was equal to the task on every occasion. On the other end of the field, Colgate had trouble just getting a shot on goal. After going 44 minutes without one, junior forward/midfielder Liz Polido finally registered that elusive shot on goal, and she made the most of the opportunity by firing home an unassisted goal, her first of the year, to give Colgate a 1-0 advantage.

Lehigh continued to attack the Colgate goal in the second half, earning nine corner kicks and forcing Michlin to make four saves. Michlin was successful in preserving her shutout, as she and the rest of the defense did just enough to keep Lehigh off the board, giving Colgate a slightly fortunate victory but an incredibly important one.

Colgate now heads into the final weekend of the regular season with a 5 p.m. Saturday home match against first-place Navy. The Raiders are currently in fourth place, tied with Bucknell on points, but, as a result of Bucknell’s 3-1 victory on October 18th, the Bison hold the tiebreaker.

Colgate’s formula for qualifying for the Patriot League Tournament is simple at this point. Win or tie against Navy and they’re in. Alternatively, if Bucknell defeats American on Saturday, Colgate’s result against Navy is irrelevant, as Bucknell and Colgate would then both qualify for the tournament. Should American defeat Bucknell and Colgate lose to Navy, however, there would be a three-way tie for third place, forcing the Patriot League’s complicated tie-breaking system into use. American would then grab third because of a better record against Army and Navy, so Bucknell and Colgate would then go to the Patriot League goal differential tiebreaker to determine the last participant, where the Bison (+8) has a big advantage over Colgate(+3) right now. Also, believe it or not, Colgate could still win the Patriot League with a victory over Navy, an American win over Navy and a Lehigh win over Army.

Despite all this, the Raiders would love to keep things in their hands on the field in order to book their place in the postseason with a positive result at Van Doren Field on Saturday.