Pioneers fall in semi-finals of NEC Tournament
After winning two games on the final weekend of the regular season and holding the tiebreaker over Quinnipiac, the Sacred Heart University Pioneers earned a berth in the NEC Tournament.
But things did not go as planned for the Pioneers who were ousted in Friday’s semifinal game against Mount St. Mary’s by a score of 7-4 on Campus Field.
“It was a disappointing way to finish,” said senior attacker Kaitlin Rochler. “We came back from being the fifth seed, or the fifth pick in the conference, and we ended up getting the first seed.
“There were a lot of ups and downs in the season, but you know we finished off the regular season great and it’s really disappointing to lose like this,” Rochler said.
Earlier in the season, the Pioneers fell short in a game against the Mountaineers by a score of 11-6.
They were hoping to change that, but it was the Mountaineers who came out on top for a second time.
To start the game, the Mountaineers were playing slow, but taking control in the first few minutes of the game.
The Mountaineers were really applying the pressure on freshman goalie Kelly Keenan. At one point in the game, Keenan made a great save, but allowed a Mountaineer player the chance to score off the rebound.
Keenan was able to correct her mistake before Mount St. Mary’s could capitalize on the play.
A few minutes later, senior attacker Jen Semlerfinally got one past Keenan, giving Mount St. Mary’s the first goal of the game.
At 21:44, the Mountaineers would strike again when freshman attacker/midfielder Erin Seipp scored, giving her team a 2-0 lead over the Pioneers.
The Pioneers began to take control, but weren’t able to score.
In the first 15 minutes of the first half, there was a lot of slow play between both teams. When one team was dominating offensively, they were slow in passing it between players.
The Mountaineers were then penalized for a pushing call, giving the Pioneers a chance to score.
When the whistle blew, the Pioneers began advancing the ball but it was the Mountaineers who cleared it preventing Sacred Heart from scoring.
At 12:24, Semler scored her second goal of the game, bringing the score to 3-0 Mountaineers.
At this point, the Pioneers called a timeout in order to gain the momentum they needed to get back into the game.
The timeout gave the Pioneers rest, but at 10:14, sophomore midfielder Lindsay Diaz scored another Mountaineer goal, making it a 4-0 lead. Semler got the assist giving herself another point in the game.
The speed of the game began to pick up, as did the physicality. Both teams earned free shots, but neither could capitalize.
With 5:10 left in the first half, senior midfielder Esther Rufolo scored again for the Mountaineers,and the half would end at 5-0.
With just 10 seconds left in the first half, it looked as if junior attacker Emily Pepe was going to put the Pioneers on the board. She was awarded a free shot from center field with the Mountaineer goalie out of the net.
As soon as the whistle blew though, the goalie was able to run back, and Pepe was unable to score.
The second half was when the Pioneers began to make their comeback. Just 45 seconds in, Rochler scored the first Pioneer goal of the game, making it 5-1. Senior midfielder Kate Kmiotek got the assist.
“I shot my first two high and we had talked about how the goalie really wasn’t that great, and I guess we ended up just faking and I put one in,” said Rochler.
About a minute later, Seipp got her second goal of the game giving the Mountaineers a 6-1 lead.
After the Mountaineers scored the Pioneers began to put tremendous pressure on the Mountaineers goalie, but weren’t able to score.
At 16:13, junior attacker Kaitlyn Larrimore added another Mountaineer goal, making it 7-1.
At this point, the Pioneers took another timeout to try and get them back into the game.
At 13:20 freshman attacker Taylor Babin passed it to senior attacker Katie Gerhard who scored the second goal for the Pioneers.
The Pioneers struck again with about nine minutes left in the game when Pepe put one past the goalie to bring the score to 7-3.
The Pioneers kept pressuring, and with 5:42 left in the game, sophomore midfielder Kelsey Russo added another Pioneer goal, cutting Mount St. Mary’s lead to three.
“I got the feed from Kate and I just buried it,” said Russo.
The Pioneers continued to fight back, but it was the Mountaineers who took control of the game by holding onto the ball for the last few minutes. The game ended with a score of 7-4 in favor of the Mountaineers.
The team graduates six seniors this year, but return several key players. They finished the season with a record of 8-9, but went 7-2 in the Northeast Conference, which gave them the No. 1 overall seed.
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