West Ch­ester ad­vances on late goal

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Neil Geoghe­gan ngeoghe­gan@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @NeilMGeoghe­gan on Twit­ter

EAST BRAD­FORD >> With a series of re­cent post­sea­son heart­break­ers against East Strouds­burg fresh in ev­ery­body’s mind, the West Ch­ester women’s soc­cer team ex­or­cized a few demons on Sun­day af­ter­noon at Rock­well Field.

Sopho­more de­fender Ju­lia Kirk­patrick scored the gamewin­ner with about 12 min­utes re­main­ing and the Golden Rams held on to edge the vis­it­ing War­riors, 2-1, in the semi­fi­nals of the NCAA Divi­sion II At­lantic Re­gional. Just nine days ear­lier on the same field, ESU ousted WCU in the PSAC semi­fi­nals on penalty kicks. And a year ago, the War­riors knocked West Ch­ester out of the PSAC’s and the NCAA’s in sim­i­larly gut-wrench­ing fashion.

“It is bit­ter­sweet. We wanted re­venge so bad,” ad­mit­ted se­nior de­fender Carly Henry, who also scored.

“We got that mon­key off our back, so to speak,” added WCU head coach Betty Ann Kempf Towns­ley. “These two teams know each other very well and it can go ei­ther way ev­ery time we play.”

The top-ranked Rams (19-0-1 over­all) will host No. 2 Kutz­town (18-4) in the re­gional fi­nal on Fri­day at Rock­well Field. The Golden Bears edged Charleston (W. Va.) 1-0 in the other re­gional semi­fi­nal.

“With the reg­u­lar sea­son we had, our team de­serves this op­por­tu­nity. To play here with the spirit and en­ergy of our fans, our team feeds off that,” Kempf Towns­ley said.

“We are so ready,” Henry added. “We are go­ing to play with so much grit. We are de­ter­mined and we are not go­ing to let any­body knock us off, es­pe­cially on our home field.”

Locked in a 1-1 dead­lock with a po­ten­tial over­time loom­ing, Kirk­patrick headed a cor­ner kick by team­mate Nikki Caf­fey that glanced off the cross­bar. But amid the con­fu­sion to cor­ral the loose ball, Kirk­patrick bat­tled for pos­ses­sion and blasted it into the back of the net. It was the first goal of her col­lege ca­reer.

“It’s a spe­cial goal for me,” said Kirk­patrick, a na­tive of Brick, N.J. “Tied 1-1, to score the win­ner was an amaz­ing feel­ing.

“As soon I went up for that cor­ner, I knew I had

to get that ball in. I headed it, it de­flected off the post and I just had to get to the re­bound.”

The PSAC reg­u­lar sea­son champs, West Ch­ester then pro­ceeded to kill off the re­main­ing time on the clock in order to elim­i­nate the de­fend­ing re­gional and con­fer­ence tournament cham­pi­ons. East Strouds­burg’s sea­son ends with a 16-5-2 mark.

“At half­time I asked Nikki (Caf­fey) to take the cor­ner kick be­cause she can drive a ball to the far post,” Kempf Towns­ley ex­plained. “And when­ever Ju­lia (Fitz­patrick) strikes a ball, it’s like a can­non.”

The Rams have made 14 con­sec­u­tive ap­pear­ances in the NCAAs, and a win on Fri­day would pro­pel WCU to its sec­ond Re­gional crown in three years and earn another home game on Nov. 19th in the na­tional quar­ter­fi­nals. The Rams topped Kutz­town 3-1 dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“I am tremen­dously ex­cited for this group,” Kempf Towns­ley said.

“I felt re­ally good com­ing into (Sun­day). I think the rest did us some good and they were re­ally charged up and ready.”

It cer­tainly showed as Kara Parvel bounced a shot off the post in the early go­ing, and then a few min­utes later Henry opened the scor­ing with a per­fectly placed, loop­ing cross field shot from 20 yards out that caught the up­per far-side cor­ner of the net over the out­stretched arms of ESU’s star goal­tender Jules Har­ris.

“Get­ting the first goal was good for our con­fi­dence,” Kempf Towns­ley said.

The fifth-seeded War­riors bounced back in the open­ing min­utes of the sec­ond

“With the reg­u­lar sea­son we had, our team de­serves this op­por­tu­nity. To play here with the spirit and en­ergy of our fans, our team feeds off that.” — WCU women’s soc­cer coach Betty Ann Kempf Towns­ley

half on a goal by Molly Vi­cari, off a cross­ing pass from team­mate Liia Car­pen­ter. West Ch­ester came close to get­ting goal num­ber two when se­nior Lexi Brown booted a shot off the far post mid­way through the sec­ond half, but it only set the stage for Kirk­patrick’s game-win­ner.

“You need some luck in these kinds of games, and we did have some of that,” Kempf Towns­ley said. “We hit the post twice, which was a bum­mer, but we earned our two goals.”

In all, Rams keeper Alex Sro­lis turned aside seven East Strouds­burg shots on goal. And the West Ch­ester back line – which has al­lowed just seven goals all sea­son -- limited the War­riors to 10 shots. In ad­di­tion, both WCU goals were scored by de­fend­ers.

“I am so proud,” Henry said. “Be­ing the only se­nior back there, it was awe­some. Every­one con­trib­utes in so many ways.”

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