Nov. 13, 2010

* Courtesy of Eastern Connecticut State Athletics

MANSFIELD, Conn. - The Eastern Connecticut State University women's soccer team earned the program's first NCAA Division III Tournament victory Saturday afternoon, defeating Worcester State University 1-0 in the first of two regional semifinal matches at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.

Sophomore forward Daniela Marchitto (Orange) netted the decisive marker in the 66th minute to lift the Warriors into the second round for the first time in program history.

One of four remaining undefeated teams in Division III, Eastern (16-0-4) is ranked second in New England and 14th nationally. Making its fifth NCAA appearance in seven years, Worcester State (10-6-4) was the automatic qualifier from Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference.

The Warriors meet Wheaton College (Mass.) (17-4-2) in Sunday's final at 2 p.m. The Lyons, ranked sixth in New England, scored three times in the second half to eliminate Mitchell College (10-8-1) in Saturday's second match. The Lyons are in their 11th NCAA tournament and have beaten Eastern three times in four previous regular-season encounters, most recently, 2-1 in overtime in 2007 at Norton, Mass.

Eastern cracked the scoring column in the 66th minute, when Marchitto scored her tenth goal of the season. Senior back Lauren Hickey (Southwick, MA) created the scoring opportunity on the right-side flank. She displayed some crafty footwork to elude a Lancer defender to open space in the middle of the field. Hickey gave a quick touch pass to Marchitto on the right wing. Marchitto took several touches, then slid a ground ball across the box just inside the far left post.. It was the third game-winning goal of the year for Marchitto, a second-team All-Little East Conference forward, and fourth assist for Hickey, the two-time LEC Defensive Player-of-the-Year.

The Warriors nearly gained the early advantage in the sixth minute of play, when sophomore forward Taylor Buchanan (Ellington) laced a shot into the midsection of the Worcester State goalkeeper. Eastern carried a slight 5-4 advantage in shots into the halftime intermission.

The Lancers came storming out of the gates in the second stanza. Worcester State nearly took the lead in the 47th minute, when junior back Nikki Scott headed a rebound from the Warriors' keeper wide left. The pitch continued to be tilted in the favor of the visitors with the Lancers holding a 4-2 advantage in shots over the next 20 minutes of play. Worcester State junior striker Danielle Clifford had a chance to break the scoreless match in the 61st minute, but Eastern junior Theresa Pagnozzi (Waterford) made the save off a corner kick to preserve her sixth shutout of the season and improve her career record to 14-0-3.

Pagnozzi made six stops to collect her sixth shutout of the season, while her counterpart sophomore Angieszaka Sychtysz was creditied with eight saves. The match was the first between the teams since 1997, when the Warriors defeated the Lancers 3-2 in overtime.

Eastern played the match without starting sophomore back Megan Godwin (Machester), who will miss the tournament after becoming ill last weekend. Junior Laura Violette (Wallingford) made her tenth start of the year in place of Godwin.