UR’s women’s soccer team couldn’t have asked for a better end to a successful season, claiming the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship the Yellowjackets hosted with victories over SUNY Geneseo and St. Lawrence University.
The women swept Geneseo at Fauver Stadium Saturday, recovering from a weaker first half to a dominating second. “In the first half, we weren’t really playing as well as we should’ve been,” freshman goalie Adrian Hulchanski said. Sophomore midfielder Karen Forsythe concurred, noting “We started playing panicky and not playing the way we usually do, playing calm and composed.” Junior forward Alison Collins broke the scoreless tie at 10:30 in a pass from sophomore defender Pietrina Micoli.
This initiated UR’s momentum that led to other goals in the second half and an eventual victory. As the Yellowjackets returned to the field following a halftime that left the team prepared to take control, their opponents did as well. “The second half, they gave us all we wanted to handle, and really came after us,” head coach Terry Gurnett said. Freshman midfielder Kate Possee mentioned that the team possessed a “mental focus” that carried them throughout the game. There was also much friction throughout the game because UR scraped a win 4-3 when they faced Geneseo earlier in the season. The Yellowjackets wanted to secure a second win and dominance in the tournament, and Geneseo aimed to counteract the previous loss.
The second half, however, proved advantageous for UR, as the team unified, played more controlled soccer and took the opportunities Geneseo presented to its benefit. The Yellowjackets’ defense held the game and “Amy Kelmenson, Jenica Schmidt and Pietrina Micoli were just a wall back there,” Gurnett said. “They held us together.”
Collins set fire to the game with her two monumental goals in the 77th minute of the game. To set the score at 2-0, she drove a rebound into the net and followed that up by pounding the ball into the center of the goal after recovering a loose ball. Forsythe refers to these goals when she recalled that “their defense had a breakdown for five minutes, and we capitalized on their mental errors.”
“A hat trick in a playoff game is extraordinary,” Gurnett said about Collins. This lead fueled the team’s confidence for the remaining time of the game. “After that, we just started clicking and playing a lot better,” Hulchanski explained.
Possee sealed the victory with her first career goal at 85:12 with a pass from freshman forward Alex Sims. This goal established the final score at 4-0. Gurnett expressed that “the game was much closer than the score indicated.” Although Geneseo presented a challenge, UR was able to come out on top with a win that led to the championship game against St. Lawrence.
The next day, UR faced powerhouse St. Lawrence again at Fauver Stadium, clinching the ECAC championship with a 2-1 victory. This game, as the score reveals, was a close one as a result of a close matchup skill-wise and the edginess produced by competing for a championship title. Further, “The weather in itself was a challenge for both teams,”said Hulchanski.
Despite this, both teams fought for the title, with the Saints taking a 1-0 lead with a goal at 18:13. Gurnett believes that St. Lawrence outplayed the team in the first half, and “after we were down a goal, we realized we had to pick it up,” Possee said. The team did just that and at 42:50 the Yellowjackets set the score at 1-1 with an important corner kick from Forsythe that led to a goal headed in by Micoli. After making up the deficit, UR focused on obtaining a goal advantage on their opponents. This occurred in sudden death overtime when UR was awarded a free kick, allowing Forsythe to drive the ball across the field to Kristin Kelly. “The winning goal was wonderful, a diving header from Kristin Kelly,” Gurnett said.
Even though the Yellowjackets ended up on top, there was much to overcome throughout the game to achieve that end. Several players and coaches mentioned the similar styles shared between St. Lawrence and UR. “That game was basically a battle of who wanted it more,” Forsythe reflected.
Possee noted that “It was definitely a nerve-racking game because it was the championship, and being in a tournament situation, we had to bring our on-game and have the intensity level of a championship team.” Taking all this into account, the drive and motivation to win UR possessed exploded to favor the team with this victory. “It was an awesome win for us not only because of the ECAC championships, but also it was the seniors’ last game, we were home, and it was nice to end with a win,” Forsythe said.
The underclassmen on the team point to seniors Amy Kelmenson and Megan Barritt as inspirations that pushed them through the championship weekend. “We played a lot for them and they have led our team to a lot of successes,” Possee said. “We wanted to give them a nice gift by ending on a winning note.” Gurnett expressed his appreciation for the athletes’ and what they brought to the team. “Amy and Megan personified the type of team we had this year ? hardworking, courageous ? they are excellent leaders and really represent the type of student athlete we like to have here.”
The Yellowjackets walk away from the 2002 season with a host of honors and accomplishments a 15-5 record, ECAC Championship, a second place ranking in New York and a 16th ranking nationally for Div. III. Collins and Kelmenon earned First Team All University Athletic Association status and Kelly earned Second Team. In reflection of the season, Possee said “With the win of the ECAC’s, it gives us the willpower to do better next year. With this win, we have the confidence to work harder next time to get into the final four.” Gurnett was extremely pleased with the season’s outcome and the team’s positive energy. “We had a great sense of ‘team’ this season, even with many injuries and changes; the athletes and coaches did a brilliant job. They did a super job of never being satisfied and wanting to get better. It culminated in a very nice championship this weekend. The future ahead is very positive and bright, we are going to work hard and continue to get better.”