Lake Buena Vista, FL. Second-ranked Messiah College netted a goal in each
half bringing an end to third-ranked The College of New Jersey's bid for a
third straight appearance in the NCAA Division III title game as the
Falcons beat the Lions 2-0 on Friday in Buena Vista.
The loss was the first of the season for the Lions as they finished the
season with a mark of 21-1-1. TCNJ has appeared in the NCAA Division III
semifinals in each of the last three seasons moving into the title game
the two previous seasons.
This marked the fourth straight year TCNJ and Messiah have met in the NCAA
Tournament with the Falcons holding 3-1 lead in those games. The lone win
for the Lions came in the same spot in last year's tournament as TCNJ
netted a 1-0 double-overtime win over Messiah.
The Lions got off to a good start carry play and had a quality scoring
chance in the opening minutes when junior Jamie Kunkel (Mt. Laurel,
NJ/Lenape) found some space on the far side of the Messiah goal and laced
a shot high.
Even with that chance, Messiah (23-0) opened the scoring 18:49 into the
game as freshman Joanna Haqq (Belchertown, MA) worked her way along the
end line from the right side put back her own rebound for a 1-0 Falcon
"When you get to this level, you make a mistake and they will punish you,"
noted TCNJ head coach Joe Russo of Messiah's first goal that originated in
an unsettled situation.
TCNJ continued to have chances and almost tied the game in the latter
stages of the half as senior Dana DiBruno (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill
East) took a long shot that just went over the net as Messiah took that
one-goal lead into the half.
"We had a lot of opportunities and really didn't take advantage of that
and it hurt us in the end," noted Lion senior Kristen Cubicciotti (North
Haledon, NJ/Immaculate Heart Academy). "We just didn't get a lot of shots
TCNJ held a territorial edge in the opening half, but were outshot 4-3
despite having all seven corner kicks in the period.
The Lions opened the second half looking for the equalizer and nearly got
it as sophomore Briann McDonough (North Arlington, NJ/Immaculate Heart
Academy) had two good chances with one being stopped by Messiah keeper
Brindley Beckwith (Upper Montclair, NJ) and the second going just high.
Messiah, however, added an insurance goal with 27 minutes even in the game
as Erin Hench (Carlisle, PA) scored to make it a 2-0 game.
Once they had the two-goal lead, the Falcons continued to put the pressure
on TCNJ, but Lion keeper Jessica Clarke (Wayne, NJ/Wayne Valley) made
several saves down the stretch to keep the difference at two. Clarke
finished the game with a season-high six saves.
Beckwith finished with five saves for the Falcons.