Dec. 3, 2009

By Carl Kotala
Special To

Skip to CSU Dominguez Hills-West Florida Recap

TAMPA –They were both upsets, but one was a stunner.

And while Grand Valley State reaching the NCAA Division II women’s soccer national championship game isn’t much of a surprise, the fact that Cal State Dominguez Hills will be their opponent after stunning No. 1 West Florida on penalty kicks has to be one.
The teams will meet Saturday at 1 p.m. at Pepin Stadium in the national championship game.

Grand Valley State 3, Saint Rose 2 (OT)

The way they pressed the action in the second half, the way they were pressing play in overtime, the No. 3  Lakers had a feeling they were due for a break through.
“It was just a matter of time before something was about to happen,” Grand Valley State goalkeeper Chelsea Parise said. “You could feel it. We were pushing it. Something had to come out of it.”
That something happened midway through the overtime period when junior midfielder Kristen Eible worked herself free and drilled the ball into the left corner of the net to set off a wild celebration as the Lakers advanced to the championship game.
Second-ranked Saint Rose (24-1), which had only given up six goals in its previous 23 games, jumped out to an early 2-0 lead before the game was even three minutes old on goals by Nicola D’Errico and Brittany Godin.
Erin Mruz cut that lead in half with a goal just under the five-minute mark, but Grand Valley State couldn’t get the equalizer, despite dominating the action for much of the game. That is, until Jaleen Dingledine nailed a brilliant left-footed kick into the top left of the goal from roughly 16 feet out with 7:02 to play.
“I wasn’t doing my best on crossing today, so I did decide to just pull it back and take a shot with my left foot,” Dingledine said. “I really don’t even remember the shot. I lifted my head and I saw it go into the back of the net and right then and there, I knew we were winning this game.”
While the Lakers (21-0-4) were left feeling euphoric, it was quite the other story for Saint Rose, which lost in the Final Four for the second year in a row. The Golden Knights came in having allowed only six goals all season – and never more than one in any single game. However, Grand Valley State’s athleticism and physical play seemed to wear them down.
Saint Rose goalkeeper Shannon Murphy was visibly upset in the postgame interview room, but D’Errico told her teammate that she loved her and not to feel down because she had the support of all her teammates.
“They were perfect goals. I don’t think anyone was going to save the goals that went in tonight,” Saint Rose coach Laurie Darling Gutheil said. “I can’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished this year, and I can’t be more proud of our girls and how they played tonight. … At this level, it’s just hard to walk away when you’ve played so well.”

Cal State Dominguez Hills 1, West Florida 1 (2OT, 4-1 PKs)

They had more losses (8) than the other three teams in the women’s final – combined (0). But in the end, it was the Toros who came away with the upset of No. 1 West Florida (22-1) thanks to a 4-1 edge in penalty kicks.
“Wow, all credit, obviously, to Dominguez Hills,” Argonauts coach Joe Bartlinski said. “They worked very hard to make it difficult all night on our players. … Early in the game and throughout, we had our opportunities. But again, Dominguez Hills made it very difficult to get around and get through. So even when we were getting solid looks, they weren’t clear.”
It was a physical battle as both teams had players cramping, including West Florida’s Shaneka Gordon, who said she could barely move after playing all 110 minutes. But while last year’s national runner-up could take pride in the fact it left everything it had on the field, it was the Toros (17-8-2) who were celebrating after junior Melissa Livergood delivered the winning penalty kick.
“Before I go up there, I’m actually extremely nervous. I want to throw up,” Livergood said. “But as soon as it’s my turn and I walk up there, I’m not thinking about anything. I calm myself down. I know exactly what side I’m going to and I’m pretty confident.”
Confidence played a big role Thursday night as, after the Toros’ Yadira Gomez answered a goal by West Florida’s Shakira Duncan to tie the game at 1, it was almost physically possible to see the Toros’ confidence grow by the minute. Dominguez goalkeeper Alyssa Congdon made several big saves throughout the night, including a diving stop during penalty kicks that helped secure the win.
Dominguez coach Joe Flanagan, who won a national title in 2008 with the men’s team, now has a chance to take home the big prize with the women. And that had him a little choked up Thursday night.
“It would be amazing,” he said. “My girls have been in the shadow of the guys the last four or five years. It’s been an emotional season for many reasons. They’ve got to a [high] level at the right time, and played at the top of their game at the right time. To be 5-0 in the playoffs and playing against the top teams in the country and being on the national stage … I couldn’t be prouder.”