BOSTON, Mass. – The third-seeded Simmons College women's soccer team will take on number six seed Johnson & Wales University in the Quarterfinals of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Tournament on Sunday, November 2 at 12:00 p.m. on Winsor Field.
The Sharks enter the GNAC playoffs with a 6-2-0 mark in their last eight matches. Simmons finished the regular season with an overall record of 9-7-2, including 8-3-0 in league play for its highest conference winning percentage (.727) since the Sharks went unbeaten with a 9-0-1 mark in 2005.
The Wildcats enter the match with season record of 10-9-1 and are 6-4-1 in conference action. JWU was 3-5-0 in its last eight contests.
Simmons defeated Johnson & Wales, 1-0, on October 4 in Boston to hand the Wildcats their first league loss of the season and drop them to 3-1-1 at the time. Junior forward Greer Gilbert (Falmouth, Mass.) scored the lone goal on a feed from classmate Issy Verrilli (Naugatuck, Conn.) at 19:11 of the first half. Junior keeper Briana Hayes (Manorville, N.Y.) made the marker stand up as she turned away all three shots she faced to record the shutout. Junior Alexa Rose (Lancaster, Pa.) stopped four of five shots in the first half, before classmate Alex Place (East Greenwich, R.I.) turned away all three shots she saw in the second stanza. Simmons outshot JWU, 17-8 in the match, while owning a 7-2 advantage on corner kicks.
The Sharks endured a slow start to their season, posting a 1-4-2 record to open their season, despite allowing two or fewer goals on four occasions. Since September 17, the team has registered an 8-3-0 mark and allowed just seven goals, while recording seven shutouts. One of the keys for Simmons has been its ball control. The midfield has been strong to possess, while the backfield has done an excellent job of preventing offensive strikes, as evidenced by the team allowing just 12 or fewer shots nine times during the 11-match stretch.
Junior Ali Berkman (Natick, Mass.) has led the team during its successful run, racking up all 13 of her points on six goals and an assist since mid-September. The midfielder has been a physical presence for the Sharks and has been dominant on 50/50 balls as well as a lethal threat in the box on corner kicks. She's also come through with four game-winning tallies. Gilbert is one of the fastest players in the league and has used her speed to get to balls in the offensive zone and turn them into goals, leading the squad with 20 points on seven goals and a team-high six assists, which is third in the league. The forward also has a knack for making her scores count, potting the winning marker three times, including a pair of 1-0 wins. The Simmons offense has gotten major contributions from a pair of newcomers as well. First year Erin Montambault (Watertown, Conn.) finished the season with six goals to place second on the squad, while classmate Kashka Gammon (Nashua, N.H.) totaled 13 points on five goals and two assists. Gammon closed out the season by notching at least one point in three of her last four matches. Junior midfielder Alexis Eusebio (Dartmouth, Mass.) has been solid all season for the Sharks, handing out five assists, while scoring two goals of her own to contribute to the offense.
Simmons' defense got a lift early in the season when junior Victoria Russo (Braintree, Mass.) returned to the midfielder after missing four matches due to injury and sophomore back Tasha Friedman (Phoenix, Ariz.) came back to solidify the lineup after sitting out the first eight contests of the year. Their return, along with the steady play of senior back Paige Wilcox (East Sandwich, Mass.) and junior defender Tegan Dougherty (Northfield, N.H.), first year Liz Donovan (Nashua, N.H.), in addition to the shutdown defensive effort from Verrilli and first year defender Jessie Pratt (Westfield, Mass.), has made the difference in the Sharks' strong second half of the season.
Hayes has been a stalwart in net for Simmons, seeing 81% of the team's minutes, while coming up with a number of crucial stops to record five shutouts on the season as part of a 1.27 goals against average. First year backup Casey Halle (Watertown, Mass.) was pressed into service in the first weekend of the season after Hayes went down with an injury and responded with her first collegiate shutout. In limited action, the rookie has allowed just two goals in 276-plus minutes of action to post a gaudy .867 save percentage to go with a 0.65 goals against mark.
Johnson & Wales has been led by freshman midfielder Gabriella Weithofer (East Longmeadow, Mass.) with a team-high seven goals and 15 points. The Rookie has started 11 of 19 matches for the Wildcats and has tallied seven points in her last five outings. First years Taylor Hopkins (Warminster, Pa.) and Kyra Selner (Sterling, Va.) along with sophomore Emily McClarnon (Wakefield, R.I.) help to comprise a promising young nucleus to the JWU offensive front. Hopkins has started 10 of 18 matches and racked up 10 points, including four goals from the midfield, while McClarnon has found the back of the net four times from up top. Selner leads the team with three assists to go with three markers.
The Wildcats have featured a consistent backfield with senior Maggie Castle (Andover, N.J.) and junior Shannon Feulner (Rockleigh, N.J.) leading the way in addition to first year Nadine Simpson (Bellmore, N.Y.), who has started in all but one match she's appeared in. Johnson & Wales has split its keeper duties among two primary goalies with Place seeing the bulk of the time. The junior owns a 2.33 GAA with a .667 save percentage in 1083 minutes of action, while Rose has registered a .839 save mark to go with a 1.06 goals against mark in over 422 minutes of play. Junior Cassie Collins (Oswego, N.Y.) has also been in the mix after sharing starting duties a year ago.