Bring On The Patriots

The Colgate women’s soccer team defeated American on Saturday night to become Patriot League co-champions for the 2005 season. The win raised the Raiders’ record to 12-4-1 overall and 6-1 in the Patriot League, which was good enough for a tie with Lehigh. As a result of Lehigh’s win over the Raiders earlier this season, the Mountain Hawks held the tiebreaker over Colgate and retained the right to host the Patriot League Tournament this year.

In the regular season finale, Colgate was victorious over the Eagles by a 3-1 margin. Junior Jackie Burch opened the scoring 30 minutes into the contest by converting a pass from first-year forward Josie Johnson. Johnson then headed in a goal of her own five minutes later off of a free kick from senior Heather McSherry to extend the Raider lead. For her goal and assist, Johnson was awarded Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors for the first time this season.

After 20 minutes of intense defense, American’s Lauren Esposito scored on a rocket to the far post to cut the Raider lead to 2-1. However, senior midfielder Carolyn Warhaftig returned the favor a few minutes later by converting off of a Raider corner kick to regain the two-goal advantage that Colgate would hold for the remainder of the game.

As the final home game of the season usually dictates, the four Raider seniors – Warhaftig, McSherry, Sachi Brown and Luisa Miller – received several deserving ovations. They were applauded both before the game and five minutes before the end of the contest, when each was taken out.

Despite a number of injuries, this season was a huge success. Throughout the course of the year, the Raiders defended the expectations placed on them as defending Patriot League champions and pre-season favorites.

“The key this season has been the team efforts,” head coach Kathy Brawn remarked. “There have been outstanding individuals, but we could not have done as well if everyone was not on the same page. There has been some incredible improvement and that is the reason for our success.”

The Patriot League playoffs start tonight in Bethlehem, PA; Colgate faces off with Army at 7:30 p.m. The Raiders are seeded second and take on the third-ranked Black Knights. In their only regular season contest, Colgate barely came away with a win in a 2-1 overtime thriller. In last year’s Patriot League semifinals, the two teams played to a 1-1 tie through regulation and overtimes, and Colgate pulled out the victory in penalty kicks on its home field.

“We are really looking forward to the playoffs,” Brawn said. “There is nothing that we should do differently [from the regular season]. We have to do everything that we have been doing, just better and in a whole new mode. We have to fine-tune everything.”

Colgate has had much playoff experience in the past, winning the league tournament last year en route to the league’s first-ever NCAA Tournament victory and playing three playoff games in the two seasons prior to that, one of which resulted in a loss in the 2002 Patriot League Championship game.

Brawn feels that the team’s experience on the team will be an advantage this year.

“The history helps out a lot [every year],” she said. “But there is more parity in the league than ever before so we have to draw on experience a lot more this year.”

The team is also incredibly grateful to its fans this season, who cheered them on at every home game. It truly gave the Raiders a real home-field advantage that could be missed in the playoffs.

“I would really like to say thank you to the fans, especially in the last home game.” Brawn said. “American played a really strong game, even though they didn’t have anything to play for, and the fans came out in numbers and were vocal and really affected the personality of the game. I and the team are just really thankful for their support throughout the season.”

Raider players and fans alike hope that Colgate will take that support on the road and come home with another Patriot League Tournament title this weekend.