The eruption of goals and assists from the Knights came from a combined effort involving 11 players. Junior attack Caroline Buonocore smashed in a team-high five goals while junior midfielder Emily Haggerty, the team’s point leader with 64 this spring, tallied three goals.
Defense, however, characterized this match. The Knights only allowed two goals in the first half and one goal in the second half.
“Defensively we were stepping up. We were just playing good man-to-man defense,” head coach Carly Ritchlin said. She also noted the consistency of senior Jenna Theofield and junior Bridget McGovern on defense as well as improvement in sophomore Aileen Kurpis.
“[Kurpis] played quite a bit last year, but now she’s starting every game,” Ritchlin said. “She’s playing a crucial role right now.”
The Knights are on a six-game win streak and Ritchlin credits a lot of that success to senior goalie Julie Bernatzky. Bernatzky is third in the conference for goals-against average (8.13 goals-per-game), save percentage (.491) and fifth for saves-per-game (7.50).
“The key is that the [athletes] are very smart. They understand what we’re doing and they’re fast,” Ritchlin said. “[Bernatzky] is also stepping up and having a great year. The two go hand in hand.”
The Knights are the No. 3 seed in the tournament this year and will take on the No. 2 seed SUNY Fredonia on Friday May 3. The focus will be on defending junior midfielder Marissa Cussins. Though the Knights held Cussins to two goals in their meeting on April 9, she ranks second in the conference for goals-per-game (3.31) and eighth for points-per-game (4.13).
If the Knights win, they would likely face No. 1 seed SUNY Cortland who not only are undefeated in SUNYACs this year, but also have won the championship 15 out of the last 16 years.
Geneseo is part of a three-team core that is within one game of each other heading into the playoffs.
“We play tougher teams, we play a much stronger strength of schedule,” Ritchlin said. “We’ve been tested a lot more, we’ve proven that we can come back, and we can collectively win games.”