SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Senior back Molly Harpster picked a perfect time to score her first collegiate goal as she headed home the game-winner in the 88th minute to lift Saint Rose to a 2-1 NCAA tournament second victory against host American International Sunday at Abdow Field.
Harpster timed her jump perfectly and delivered a corner from freshman midfielder Amanda Vasquez to set off a celebration on the Golden Knights (18-2-2) sideline.
“Both teams had their moments of possession and controlling play through the midfield. I thought we had the better chances in the first half and really put a lot of pressure on them,” Saint Rose head coach Laurie Darling Gutheil said. “They then had a spurt of momentum in the second half when they got a hold on the run of play and put a lot of pressure on us. In the end, it came down to who was going to get that break.”
Saint Rose took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period, but American International manufactured the equalizer in the opening 12 minutes of the second half. It was then pretty much anyone’s match until Harpster came through.
The Golden Knights controlled the pace throughout most of the first stanza, but the tide turned in the second half and the flow moved in both directions after the 14th ranked Yellow Jackets (13-4-2) got the equalizer with 56:14 gone by.
Saint Rose owned a 1-0 lead at intermission after junior midfielder Sydney Bond knocked home a corner in the 23rd minute off the foot of junior forward Carmelina Puopolo with 22:42 elapsed.
American International junior forward Caroline Boyce then tied it when she one-timed a cross near the end line from fellow junior forward Mariah Shade at the 56:14 mark. The affair subsequently appeared destined for extra time, but Harpster negated that notion and in the process collected a nifty keepsake in the form of the game ball.
Both squads had several additional chances to alter the outcome. Puopolo almost made it 2-0 in the 42nd minute when she got loose in the area. However, American International sophomore keeper Samantha Tabak just got a piece of her shot that forced it to roll wide left.
Puopolo then one-timed a strike with her left foot from 30-yards out in the 82nd minute that whistled just over the crossbar. Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets threw a scare at the Golden Knights when junior midfielder Roxy Lee-Stewart launched a shot that went just high with merely 20 seconds left for what proved to be the day’s final play.
Saint Rose wound up with a 14-11 advantage in the shot department. The Golden Knights also produced 10 corners without allowing any. Junior keeper Jessica Gerski made four saves and improved 17-2-2 on the year. Tabak also make four saves.