Women's soccer team falls to Misericordia in Elite Eight play

Season over; 16-5-2 record is best ever

Photo/David Burbank

Dara Spital '14 heads home the winning goal against Cortland State Saturday.


Nov. 18: 
The most successful season in Brandeis University women's soccer history ended today with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of 10th-ranked Misericordia University in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III tournament.

The Judges had their deepest advance ever in the tournament. The team tied a school record for wins in a season as they finished at 16-5-2. Misericordia advances to the Final Four with a 20-2-2 mark.

The game-winning goal came in the fourth minute, when sophomore Megan Lannigan charged across the end line towards the left post. She tallied her 10th of the season on an Erin McGreal cross from right post at 3:32. Brandeis twice threatened looked to even the score later in the first frame. Sophomore Sapir Edalati shot high and right of goal in the 28th minute of play. Then, at 39:58, sophomore Dara Spital dodged a trio of Cougar defenders and laced a shot across goal from inside the 18 that hit the right post before being cleared from the defensive third.

Misericordia maintained a 1-0 advantage at intermission, with a 9-6 edge in shots, though four of Brandeis's attempts were on net, compared to just one for the Cougars. The Cougars controlled play in the second half and outshot the Judges 8-1.

As she has all season, Brandeis sophomore Michelle Savuto replaced senior Francine Kofinas in goal for the second 45 minutes. Savuto made her first of four saves at 46:10, swatting a shot by Sam Helmstetter high of the crossbar to keep the Judges within one.

In the 62nd minute, Misericordia sophomore Erin Roberts drew a foul at just outside the top center of the box. Roney took the direct kick, firing the Cougars' second goal inside the right post for a 2-0 cushion. It was Roney's 14th score of the season. Brandeis had a handful of free kicks in the second half, but could only convert one into a shot. Spital sent a dart along the right end line at 86:45 but Cougar keeper Maureen Ciccosanti made her fifth save of the game to preserve the Misericordia shutout.

Brandeis returns all but two players next season. Kofinas and senior midfielder Zoe Siegel end their careers with 47 wins and two NCAA tournament appearances in 2010 and 2012.

A pair of early goals from sophomore standout Dara Spital powered the Brandeis to a 2-1 victory Saturday over Cortland State as the women’s soccer team advanced in NCAA tournament play in Ithaca, N.Y.

The team tied the program record with their 16th win of the season, moving to 16-4-2. They take on Misericordia University Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. for the right to go on the Final Four for the first time.

The men’s team suffered its second shutout of the season and just its third loss, as Williams College made a 64th  minute goal hold up for a 1-0 defeat of the Judges in an NCAA tournament game played in Amherst, Mass. The men ended their season with an 18-3-1 record.

The women’s goals came in the 13th and 25th minutes, as Spital produced her fourth multi-goal game of the season. At the 12:46 mark, she opened the scoring with an unassisted goal. After an initial Brandeis attempt was blocked, she collected the rebound and placed it in the bottom right corner of the net behind Cortland State netminder Taylor Hudson.  At 24:02, junior midfielder Mary Shimko crossed a ball that Spital was able to head over the leaping Hudson. It was Spital’s 14th goal of the season and her eighth game-winner, tying a Brandeis single-season record. The assist was Shimko’s third of the campaign.

Brandeis went on to outshoot Cortland State, 6-4, the rest of the way in the first half, though Brandeis senior goaltender Francine Kofinas was not forced to make any saves. The Red Dragons had better luck getting shots on net early in the second half against Brandeis sophomore Michelle Savuto, who made saves in the 53rd and 56th minute against Abby Williams. Savuto came off her line to deny the first attempt, while the second was a hard shot, but right at the Judges’ netminder.

Spital nearly added a third goal in the 61st minute, when her shot went just over the crossbar, while Hudson denied Shimko’s free kick in the 70th minute.

Cortland State increased the pressure in the final 20 minutes, registering four of the final five shots of the contest. The Red Dragons broke through with less than two minutes left in regulation, when Kelley Knight took a feed from Matison Williams; her kick hit the underside of the crossbar and went in. Cortland State had a final threat with four seconds left, but Savuto made the save, her fourth of the game, to preserve the Judges’ victory.

With the win, all four of the University Athletic Association teams selected to the tournament advance to the Elite Eight. Brandeis will take on Misericordia Sunday after the Cougars upset host team Ithaca College earlier in the day. The squads played to a 0-0 draw after two overtime periods, and MU won the shootout, 6-5.

In the men’s contest, the game was decided on a 64th minute goal when Eph senior Patrick Ebobisse got away from his defender following a free kick after much contact was made. 

Brandeis found its best chance to even it in the 81st minute, when a loose, bouncing ball in the box nearly gave senior Lee Russo a chance at a close-range shot. But Williams keeper Than Finan arrived just in time to secure possession for the Ephs.

In a desperate late push, Russo sent a promising corner in with 40 seconds remaining, and senior Sam Ocel, the hero of the Judges’ first two rounds, put a good header on it. But the attempt was right at Finan. The Judges had one more look on a free kick from Russo with 17 seconds on the clock, but again Finan was positioned for an easy save, icing the win for Williams.

Both Finan and Brandeis’ senior netminder Minchoff finished with four saves, while Brandeis held a 15-10 edge in shots and an 8-4 advantage in corners.

Brandeis seniors Minchoff, Russo and Joe Eisenbies end their careers with 51 wins, two ECAC tournament titles and the program's first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1985. Ocel, who missed his entire sophomore season to injury, will be back as a graduate student next year.

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