PENSACOLA, Fla. – The College of Saint Rose propelled itself into the NCAA Division II national championship game after coming up just short the three previous years with a 2-0 victory against Armstrong Atlantic State at Brosnaham Park on Thursday.
“Obviously we are very ecstatic with the result. The girls played incredibly. Our attacking abilities were superb,” said Saint Rose head coach Laurie Darling Gutheil. “It was a very hard fought game. I felt very confident that our strikers could be explosive and effective, and that was reflected on the field.”
Indeed it was. Saint Rose jumped out to a 1-0 lead with just seven minutes gone by when sophomore forward Carmelina Puopolo bent a corner from the right flag inside the far post. Twenty-three minutes later, senior midfielder Gianna D’Errico slipped home a feed up the middle of the area from freshman forward Brittany Barry to make it 2-0 Golden Knights.
Saint Rose had a chance to it put away in the final minute of the first half when the Pirates where whistled for a handball in the box. However, senior midfielder Christina Cuffari sailed her PK attempt just wide right.
The first half was played very evenly, but the Golden Knights took advantage of their lead to control the pace and defend their turf throughout the second period. Saint Rose manufactured a slim 15-13 advantage in shots, but developed an 8-4 lead in that category during the opening 45 minutes. The Golden Knights also generated 10 corners, while yielding only three throughout the game.
Sophomore keeper Jessica Gerski made four spectacular second-half saves to keep the Pirates (18-3-3) off the board and the Golden Knights in control. She set the tone in the opening 17 minutes when she twice turned aside Armstrong Atlantic sophomore midfielder Andye Dawson within a nine minute span. Gerski wound up with five saves for the game, while freshman Maggie Carson recorded three saves for the Pirates.
“It was a tale of two halves. Saint Rose was a very good team. Being here for the first time, we seemed a little jittery in the first half. It was a fantastic season. We grew from last year, and hopefully we will grow from this experience. Saint Rose finished their chances, and we didn’t,” said Armstrong Atlantic head coach Eric Faulconer.