The women’s soccer team finished the regular season with a perfect league record, but its playoff hopes vanished in the first round after a disappointing end in the NCAA Tournament with a 2-1 loss to Nazareth College Wednesday.
The teams played to a standstill for the first 39 minutes. Both teams had scoring chances, but neither was able to find the back of the net.
“We played well in spurts, but we couldn’t sustain it,” head coach Terry Gurnett said. “We’ve been practicing all week, so I thought we’d play well.”
Nazareth got on the board with 5:45 left in the first half. UR was unable to clear the ball out of the box and junior midfielder Shannon Rene knocked it past Malecki’s reach.
Nazareth came out of halftime determined to keep the lead with the memory of a 2-1 loss to UR at Fauver Stadium Sept. 25 still fresh.
“I thought they played better,” Gurnett said. “We just never seemed to get on track.”
Malecki kept the score 1-0 six minutes into the second half when she made a diving save on a breakaway.
Junior forward Jamie Snyder gave Nazareth a 2-0 lead with 23 minutes left in the game when she blasted a shot from the right side into the top left corner.
Nazareth almost scored again 3:30 later, but sophomore midfielder Sarah Crimmins made a save with a header after Malecki left the box.
UR brought in a third forward with 10 minutes left to play, but it was not enough to tie the game.
The Yellowjackets main offensive threats were limited as they only got one corner kick and very few close free kicks.
“We were trying to create more off the flanks,” Gurnett said. “They played the ball quickly and never allowed us to get into a rhythm.”
UR almost fell behind 3-0 with 9:15 left, but senior stopper Jen Seferiadis got in front of the shot and cleared the ball downfield.
UR avoided the shutout with 24 seconds left to play when senior forward Christine Sipala took a pass from sophomore forward Alison Collins and struck the ball into the top left corner.
UR beat Brandeis University, 4-0, Saturday to finish 7-0 in the University Athletic Association and improve to 13-4 overall.
Senior midfielder Loren Cerami scored off a pass from sophomore forward Alison Collins 1:15 into the game and an own-goal by the Brandeis defenders gave UR a 2-0 halftime lead.
“I think it was really important [to win] because it’s our last regular season game and we needed to have a good game to come out of that with confidence going into the national tournament,” Cerami said.
Freshman forwards Kristin Kelly and Portia Bridges each added a goal in the second half.
Kelly finished the regular season with a team-high eight goals. Bridges was second with seven scores.
Sophomore goalie Sarah Malecki earned her eighth shutout of the season.
The seniors were quiet and teary-eyed after the season-ending loss, but they will be able to look back on this season ? and their careers ? with pride once the disappointment wears off.
“I thanked the seniors for their dedication and leadership,” Gurnett said. “They led this team all season.”
UR had not made the NCAA tournament since 1998.
“There’s no question we had a great season,” Gurnett said. “This won’t take away from the season in any way, shape or form.”
The rest of the team will begin to look toward next season, which has great promise with eight starters plus the team’s top two scorers returning.
“Our goal was to get into the tournament and, as we build the team, our goal will be to advance,” Gurnett said.
Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com.