The Geneseo women’s soccer team escaped the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in two matches that came down to the wire.
In the opening round game on Saturday Nov. 11 against Pennsylvania State University-Berks, the Nittany Lions scored in the first half and dominated most of the game.
“We came out a bit slower in the first half,” head coach Nate Wiley said. “But we picked up energy and started moving the ball around a little quicker.”
It was not until the 89th minute that Geneseo scored its first goal. Junior midfielder Ashley Byrne headed in a corner kick from senior forward Audrey Reid, tying the match and sending it into overtime.
Sophomore defender Taylor Clar sent a pass to senior midfielder Leah Greene, allowing Greene to take a shot which clinched the victory for the Knights.
“It was surreal,” said Greene, who now has four NCAA Tournament career goals, three of which came in a hat trick against Frostburg State in the opening round of the 2014 tournament. “We had it, and it was just a matter of who was going to put it in.”
In the match against Misericordia University on Sunday Nov. 12, Geneseo was outshot 15 to 11, and no goals were scored on both sides throughout regulation or the first overtime period. Junior goalkeeper Emily Janiszewski recorded seven saves, including two in the first overtime period, which was dominated by the Cougars.
In the second overtime, Reid sent a corner kick to Byrne, who once again headed in a goal, this time securing the win that has sent the Knights into the NCAA Tournament’s third round.
“I was shocked,” Byrne said. “It was an unbelievable experience that I can’t describe.”
Wiley said the goal was “a moment of brilliance, one of the best goals we scored all year.”
The Knights continue to show that they belong on this big stage with the nation’s best as they win their fourth game of this postseason.
“We are playing great teams who had great records like we did,” Byrne said. “Not knowing a lot about these teams has been a challenge, and so far, we have been doing great.”
Geneseo hosted their first two rounds of the tournament, and the perks of a home field advantage were not ignored. College Stadium’s large field is intimidating to opposing teams, but the Knights are used to it. The fans at College Stadium were also a huge morale boost to the players throughout the season.
“We have great fans and awesome support,” Byrne said.
Greene was named SUNYAC Defensive Player of the Year last week and made the All-SUNYAC First Team along with Reid, Janiszewski, Clar and junior back Rachel Walsh.
The season’s Rookie of the Year award was presented to freshman forward Ellie Gregory, who was named to the All-SUNYAC Second Team along with sophomore forward Domenica Piccoli. All-SUNYAC Third Team honors went to junior midfielder Jennifer Moran.
Geneseo will travel to Massachusetts to play Johns Hopkins University on Saturday Nov. 18 for a rematch from the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The Blue Jays won that game 3-1.
“They are going to be athletic; it will be a battle,” said Wiley. “It’s just a matter of staying focused and this group has the right mentality.”