Wheaton 3, Oneonta State 0



The visiting Wheaton (MA) College Lyons scored three unanswered goals in the second half to defeat the defending Div. III national champion, Oneonta State Red Dragons, 3-0 this afternoon in the NCAA tournament sectional final. The win for the Lyons advances them into its first final four in the history of the program. The Lyons were making its third straight elite eight appearance, but had come up short the previous two years from advancing further. Wheaton (23-0-2) is one of only two unbeaten teams remaining in the country and, today, they set a national Div. III record with its 22nd shutout of the season. The loss for Oneonta (21-2-1) ended its hopes of repeating as national champions while also snapping a 20-game win streak.

"We knew we were going to win this game," said Wheaton coach Luis Reis. "Even though the score was tied at halftime, I told our team that this game is ours. We made a couple of tactical adjustments, but I kept telling my players that the opportunities were still going to be there."

The first half was up and down between the two teams with an edge in play going to Wheaton. Oneonta keeper Laura Morcone (Mechanicville, NY/Mechanicville) was tested early, but came up with the saves. The first half ended scoreless, but the Lyons held a decided advantage in shots 9-3. Morcone finished the half with six saves and finished with a season-high 10 for the game.

Lightning struck early in the second half for Wheaton who scored the first of its three second half goals less than two minutes into the second stanza. Freshman Lauren Konopka (Medford, NJ) got behind the Oneonta defense and collected a thru ball from senior Beth Caromile (Warwick, RI). Konopka then used the outside of her foot to push the ball past Morcone for the 1-0 lead.

"It was a great pass and I was able to make a move to get behind the defender," said Konopka. "You don't have a lot of time to think about the play, you just go with it and try to make it count."

The Red Dragons found themselves down 2-0 just over five minutes later when Wheaton notched its second goal on a restart. Freshman Erin Davis (Easton, CT) put a perfect ball into the box that senior Erin Duffy (East Longmeadow, MA) was able to get her head on to knock it into the goal.

"Erin has been doing that for us all season," said Duffy. "It was a great ball and I was able to get over the defender to redirect it.

When asked if she thought the game was in hand after the goal Duffy responded, "We have been told that the most dangerous lead in soccer is 2-0. We were not going to stop attacking because we knew that if we let up a goal it would change the game. We were not satisfied with two goals."

Wheaton put the game out of reach in the 68th minute when Davis scored directly on a corner kick. She was able to bend the ball enough to get it over the head of Morcone while catching the right corner of the goal.

"My goal each time is to get the ball in position for my teammates to score," said Davis when asked if whe thought the ball was going to go in.

"I did it one other time this year, but it really has to be a perfect kick for it to get there."

When the game finally ended, the Lyons out shot Oneonta 21-7 while also holding a 7-4 advantage in corners. It was the first time this season that Oneonta was out shot in a game and it was the only time all season that a team had more than 10 shots against them. In yesterday's win against Hamilton, they were the first team to even record 10 shot against the Red Dragons in 2004. The three goals allowed for Oneonta was also the first time any team had scored three goals against them since, oddly enough, Wheaton managed to in 2002. It was also the first time the Red Dragons were held scoreless since last year's 0-0 tie to Ithaca in the NCAA New York Regional semifinals.

"We had a great year," said Oneonta coach Tracey Ranieri. "There were only eight teams left in the country playing today and we were one of them. At this time of the year all the teams are great. Our goal every year is to compete for a national championship and that will never change for us here at Oneonta. I am proud of this team and the effort they gave this season."

Wheaton will now play against Wheaton College of Illinois in the national semifinal this upcoming Friday in Greensboro, N.C. Messiah College, the other unbeaten team in Div. III, is the third team in the final four bracket with the final spot being decided later today out west between University of Puget Sound and Washington University of St. Louis.

-- Courtesy Oneonta State