Women’s Soccer Ready For Playoffs

The Colgate women’s soccer team had a great weekend, clinching the Patriot League regular season title against Lafayette and then beating eighth-ranked Princeton.

The first place Raiders squared off against last place Lafayette on Friday night knowing that a victory would guarantee them home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Senior co-captain Kyle Koch said the team knew “we had to beat Lafayette. For the first time our fate was totally in our hands.”

After dropping their last two games, the Raiders wasted no time in returning to form. Eighteen minutes into the match, sophomore Jackie Burch blasted a free kick from 40 yards out to the head of junior Carolyn Warhaftig, who found the back of the net. With time winding down in the half the Raider’s struck again when senior co-captain Ali Bernardini beat Lafayette keeper Amy Kalista for her third goal of the season to put the Raiders up 2-0 at the half. With the team up 2-0 and Colgate’s defense shutting down the Leopards, the Raiders were 45 minutes away for their first regular season title since 2000.

The Raiders put the game out of reach 16 minutes into the second half with a goal by first-year Franny Iacuzzi off of an assist by junior Kelly Kuss. The goal gave Iacuzzi her 33rd point, and the assist was Kuss’ 12th of the season, the highest single-season total for a Raider player. The Raider offense proved too much for Lafayette as the Colgate out-shot the Leopards, 16-5. The defense also shut down the Leopard, as it recorded the team’s sixth shutout of the year and fifth at home. With the win, the Raiders clinched home field advantage and regained their momentum for their non-league showdown against Princeton.

“After dominating Friday’s match, the team came out confident on Sunday against Princeton,” Bernardini said.

Eighth-ranked Princeton came into the match as heavy favorites, riding a 10-game winning streak and having already clinched the Ivy League title by steamrolling Cornell, 7-0. However, the visitors were facing a very good Raider team on its senior night, and Colgate was not going to be denied.

The Tiger’s controlled the flow of the game and achieved most of the scoring opportunities early in the half, but the Raider defense was able to keep them off the scoreboard behind a strong performance from sophomore keeper Luisa Miller.

As the first half wore on, Colgate had some scoring chances of its own but it was unable to find the back of the net. With the game tied at zero at halftime, Bernardini and her team had confidence. “Everybody on the field, as well as in the stands, started to really believe that we could win this game,” she said.

The two teams played the second half to a scoreless draw as well and the game was sent into overtime. With four minutes left in the overtime period, Princeton forward Esmeralda Negron sent a shot that rocketed off the top off of the crossbar and just missed ending the game. Still alive, Colgate moved the ball up field on a pass by Warhaftig to Kuss, who crossed the ball in front of the net. The ball was picked up by first-year Kathleen Head and she found her high school teammate Iacuzzi in scoring range. Iacuzzi did not miss, winning the game for Colgate and, with her 15th goal of the season setting a new first-year record for goals in a season.

The win against the Tigers proved that the Raiders can not only play with the best teams in the nation, but also that on any given day they can beat them.

“[It was] an unforgettable weekend, where the emotions that I have experienced will last long after I graduate,” Bernardini said afterwards. “I am speaking for all four of the seniors when I say that this was a perfect gift on senior day.”

In recognition for their efforts, Miller was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week and Iacuzzi was named the league’s Rookie of the Week. Miller blanked both Princeton and Lafayette to improve her goals-against average to .85 per game, tops in the Patriot League. Iacuzzi, named the Rookie of the Week for the third time this season, leads the Patriot League with 35 points and is second in the league with 15 goals. Her game-winner against Princeton gave her six for the season, also a Patriot League best.

Because of their top seed in the regular season standings, the Raiders will host the Patriot League tournament, beginning today. Colgate begins postseason play this afternoon when it faces off with Army at 4:30 p.m. on Van Doren Field. The winner of that game will face the winner of the Lehigh-American game for the Patriot League crown and an NCAA birth at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Van Doren Field.