Simmons pushed Emmanuel College into double overtime to take the 2-1 victory over the second-seeded Saints in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship game on Saturday. Freshman Lian Atturio (Hanover, Mass.) scored both goals for the Sharks, including the game-winner, which came in the 117th minute. Senior goalkeeper Rachel Elliot (Amherst, N.H.) made 11 stops to help lead fifth-seeded Simmons to the Championship title. With the win, the Sharks earn an automatic qualification to the NCAA Division III tournament, Simmons' first national appearance since 2004.
"Today we played with heart and guts," said Head Coach Erica Mastrogiacomo. "We made a commitment as a team back in August to stop at nothing for the GNAC Championship. I am so proud of this team and their ability to conquer fears and challenges as a cohesive group."
Simmons' 2-1 win on Emmanuel's home field completed a trio of tournament upsets for the Sharks, as they topped the 4th seed Emerson College, 1st seed Saint Joseph's College, and finally 2nd-seeded Emmanuel. The double overtime championship win gives the Sharks (12-5-3) an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Emmanuel (14-6-1) will wait to hear about a potential bid to the ECAC post-season tournament.
The crowd at Clemente Field exceeded 500 spectators, as the neighboring Colleges of the Fenway schools chose sides in the local rivalry. Much of the first half was played in the center of the field, with neither team obtaining solid scoring opportunities in the early going. The Saints, who out-shot the Sharks, 7-2, in first stanza, scored the first goal of the game with just two minutes to play in the half. Senior forward Stephanie Levesque (Auburn, Mass.) followed up a long shot by junior Kristina Marik (Airmont, Mass.) to put the Saints on the board, 1-0. Both Levesque and Marik had come off the bench to convert the play at 42:23. Emmanuel then carried the 1-0 edge into the break.
Simmons retaliated with the tying goal at 68:31. Atturio received a feed from sophomore Mandy Walke (Danvers, Mass.) to knot the game at 1-1. Emmanuel continued to out-shoot Simmons, as the Saints held an 11-3 shooting advantage in the second half. The remainder of regulation was played scoreless and the championship was sent into overtime.
Neither team took a shot in the first ten minutes of overtime, forcing a second o.t. period. Six minutes and thirty-six seconds were played in the second overtime, when Atturio netted the game-winner for the Sharks. Atturio's shot was the only shot taken by either team in the combined overtime periods. She got her assist from junior Anna Stella (Sharon, Mass.), as the Sharks stunned the host Saints, 2-1.
"Lian stepped up as a first year today and played with courage and confidence to lead us into victory," said Mastrogiacomo. "She is composed with the ball at her feet and was aggressive towards Emmanuel's back line."
Elliot was stellar for the Sharks, making 11 saves in the win. Emmanuel's freshman keeper Jessica D'Ottavio (Pawling, N.Y.) stopped 3 of Simmons' 5 shots on goal, playing the full 116:36 for the Saints.
"Rachel Elliott is the most athletic goalkeeper to have come through our program. She came up with game-changing saves time after time to keep us moving towards our goal," said Mastrogiacomo.
Simmons' NCAA tournament opponent will be determined on Monday morning. Emmanuel will wait to hear about a possible bid to the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) post-season tournament.
Women's Soccer All-Tournament Team and MVP:
Mikayla Call - SJM
Jessica Needham - SJM
Eva Peart - SJC
Cait Witham - SJC
Amber Di Nucci - Emmanuel
Kate McKenna - Emmanuel
Meghan Long - Emmanuel
Lian Atturio - Simmons
Kelly Muirhead - Simmons
Allie Megna - Simmons
Katie Foley - Simmons
MVP - Rachel Elliott - Simmons