Kutz­town’s rally stuns WCU

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

EAST BRAD­FORD >> Up by two goals and go­ing against an op­po­nent it beat com­fort­ably dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, the un­beaten West Ch­ester women’s soc­cer team … got com­fort­able on Fri­day. And that is never ad­vis­able in the NCAA Divi­sion II Tour­na­ment, es­pe­cially in the At­lantic Re­gional Fi­nal.

Af­ter al­low­ing just seven goals in the first 20 con­tests this sea­son, the Golden Rams had sev­eral de­fen­sive break­downs, sur­ren­dered three in a 16-minute stretch, and it was enough to give vis­it­ing Kutz­town a stun­ning 3-2 tri­umph over WCU at Rock­well Field.

“This is up there with the big­gest dis­ap­point­ments in my coach­ing ca­reer,” said West Ch­ester’s 10-year head coach, Betty Ann Kempf Towns­ley.

“It was a lack of con­cen­tra­tion and fo­cus. We were too com­pla­cent with a two-goal lead, feel­ing

com­fort­able, and you can’t do that. You can never feel com­fort­able with a twogoal lead.”

The top-seed in the re­gion, WCU’s sea­son ends with a 19-1-1 mark. The Golden Bears (19-4 over­all) ad­vance to Sun­day’s NCAA Quar­ter­fi­nal clash against Bridge­port (Conn.), to be held at Rock­well Field at noon. It was Kutz­town’s first-ever re­gional crown.

“We’ve been for­tu­nate to play in four con­fer­ence fi­nals, in­clud­ing this year, but we went 0-4,” said KU head coach Erik Burstein. “So to get that weight off our shoul­der, hope­fully this will lead to more cham­pi­onships.”

It was the end of the line for 11 West Ch­ester se­niors, in­clud­ing PSAC and At­lantic Re­gion Player of the Year, Scar­lett Walsh. The mid­fielder scored a goal in her fi­nal col­lege ap­pear­ance, and so did fel­low se­nior Ha­ley Man­gia­ruga. But for a team that notched 13 shutouts, and never al­lowed more than a sin­gle goal in any con­test this fall, it wasn’t enough.

“It hurts a lot, and I hurt for them,” said Kempf Towns­ley, who was named the PSAC Coach of the Year for the sec­ond time. “I wanted so badly for this group of se­niors to win this re­gional and move on. This is a solid team and a group that de­served to go far.”

Things looked good in the early go­ing. Walsh headed in a pass from se­nior team­mate Lexi Brown at the 16:50 mark for her team-best 10th goal of the sea­son. And about 15 min­utes later, Man­gia­ruga knocked a shot off the near post and in af­ter tak­ing a pass from fresh­man Ju­lia Kirk­patrick to make it 2-0.

The turn­ing point, how­ever, came in the fi­nal three min­utes of the first half, when Kutz­town’s Emily Zwier­can drib­bled through the de­fense and scored an as­sisted tally that went un­der the hands of WCU keeper, Alex Sro­lis.

“It sparked them. We let them get right back into the game,” Kempf Towns­ley said.

“West Ch­ester is a tremen­dous pro­gram ev­ery year,” Burstein added. “They tend not to con­cede many goals, es­pe­cially at home. So to go down 2-0, you feel like maybe it isn’t our day. But that first goal we got at the end of the half was crit­i­cal. That gave us a life­line.”

With mo­men­tum on their side, the Bears got the equal­izer about 10 min­utes into the sec­ond half on a rocket from just out­side the box by Mad­die Moh that slipped into the far post. And then, only eight min­utes later, Kutz­town’s Kristina Miller hit pay-dirt on what ended up the game-win­ner a goal off a cor­ner kick by Kate Martin.

“You have to give credit to Kutz­town,” Walsh said. “They played with a lot of heart. But we made too many mis­takes.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed in the re­sult, but not in the girls. It’s up­set­ting, but I am still proud of my team.”

Thanks to eight from Walsh, the Rams had a 1310 ad­van­tage in shots, but only four of those wound up on goal. Kutz­town fin­ished with a 9-8 edge on cor­ner kicks, which in­cluded the game-win­ner.

De­spite one of the great­est reg­u­lar sea­sons in West Ch­ester ath­let­ics his­tory, the Rams exit the 2016 cam­paign with two big post­sea­son re­grets: a loss to East Strouds­burg in the PSAC Tour­na­ment semi­fi­nal, and Fri­day’s out of char­ac­ter de­fen­sive break­down ver­sus Kutz­town. And both came on the Rams home field.

“Say­ing that we went un­de­feated in the reg­u­lar sea­son is an ac­com­plish­ment, but it didn’t end the way we wanted it to,” Walsh said.

“We went un­de­feated in the reg­u­lar sea­son, and we walk away with­out a PSAC trophy or a re­gional ti­tle,” Kempf Towns­ley added.

“But this is a spe­cial group of play­ers. Love them to death -- they are just great kids.”

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