Women’s soccer season ends early in the NCAA tourney

After a magical run into the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships last season, the women’s soccer team fell short in its return to the tournament this year.

On Saturday, the Tartans ended their season with a 1–0 loss to York College of Pennsylvania in the first round of the NCAA Championships.

Expectations were high this season. The Tartans opened the season ranked No. 5 in Division III, but after three straight losses to close the season, the Tartans dropped out of the Top 25 ranking.

Throughout the season, the Tartans struggled to find their finishing touch: They would consistently outplay and outshoot their opponents, but often couldn’t find the back of the net.

“This year, we felt a real need to make it back to NCAA and do well, and I think that pressure — all throughout the season — made it harder for us to perform well,” graduate-student goalkeeper Anna Albi said.

Although they could get by weaker opponents, they struggled against tougher competition in the University Athletic Association (UAA) Conference.

Their poor finishing finally caught up to them against York College. The Tartans outshot York 17–7 but had nothing to show for their strong play.

York College opened the scoring in the 26th minute on an unlucky play when York’s Emily Cronise took a weak shot from 20 yards out. The ball appeared to be heading out of bounds, but as Albi went to grab it, the ball took an awkward bounce and spun off of Albi into the net.

The game should not have come down to that goal, however, as the Tartans outplayed York in the second half.

Junior forward Savina Reid created multiple chances in the half. In the 52nd minute, sophomore midfielder Louisa Pendergast played a great through ball to Reid on the right sideline. Reid pulled back past her defender and powered a left-footed shot that went just left of net.

Reid also created another scoring chance six minutes later when she sent a cross into the penalty box that bounced right to sophomore Amanda Broderick at point-blank range. But Broderick couldn’t get enough of her foot on the ball, and her shot landed softly in the hands of the York goalie.

It was a bitter end for the graduating class.

“It’s really amazing to see how far the program has come, skill-wise and cultural-wise,” Albi said. “Our culture is very different — much more competitive and much more serious about being a top-ranked team than it was my freshman year.”

Back in 2010, the team had a pedestrian 8–8 record and peaked last year with a 14–1–5 record.

In addition to Albi, the Tartans lose two strong defenders this year.

Rachel Contopoulos, who led the team in points with two goals and six assists, as well as Brittany Couture, a two-time All-UAA Honorable Mention, played their final games on Saturday.

Senior forward Alex Venegas missed time with a knee injury, but returned to score two goals in six UAA games.

The strength of this team is its youth, and many young players look ready to step up.

First-year goalie Katie Liston gained valuable playing time, earning a 4–1–0 record in goal, and looks ready to be the next starter for years to come.

Pendergast, who had four goals on the season, has emerged as a crafty and creative offensive playmaker, and sophomore defensive midfielder Carson Quiros is an intimidating presence in the midfield who also scored three goals.

First-year defenders Amelia Clark and Samantha Smith should form a strong back line for the next three years.

“I trust the team will be great next year. I’m sure we will have a lot of new talent coming in, and there’s a lot of talent there already,” Albi said.