CAMBRIDGE, MA – Defending New England Collegiate Conference women's soccer champions Lesley University will be making a return trip to the league finals after topping Daniel Webster Thursday night in penalty kicks on a dreary night in Cambridge.
Double overtime ended in a 1-1 tie, and Lesley won the shootout, 3-2.
While the Lynx return to the league championship for the second straight season, it was two newbies to the NECC title game that lifted the No. 1 seed. Freshmen and Southern California natives Veronica Halen and Jackee Sanchez tallied the Lynx only points over 110 minutes of play, then provided the tying and then winning goals in the shootout.
The Lynx controlled the majority of the early going, spending most of the first 25:00 on the Eagles half of the field and taking the game's first seven shots. The Eagles, though, made sure shot No. 8 counted.
TC DiSantis (Hinsdale, MA/St. Joseph's) took the team's only corner kick of the half from the right corner at 31:12, and three seconds later, Kacie Lang's header from in front of the left post found the back of the net. On the junior midfielder's third goal of the season, Lang's Eagles went into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
The second half opened similarly to the first, with Lesley getting off five of the first six shots, but this time the Lynx came away with something to show. Halen (San Diego, CA/Cathedral) found fellow frosh Sanchez (Fair Oaks Ranch, CA/Golden Valley) on a pass down the middle, who at 58:18 lofted a shot over converging Eagles goalkeeper Amy Waller to tie the contest 1-1.
After 90 minutes, the match remained tied, forcing overtime.
Halen earned the highest-quality scoring opportunity with 4:29 left. On an indirect kick from 40 yards, she struck what looked like it could be the game-winning goal, but it caromed off the crossbar and out of bounds. After 100 minutes and a 26-2 Lynx advantage in shots, the game stayed tied.
Waller (Berlin, MA/Tahanto), meanwhile, was phenomenal, improving as the rainfall thickened. The junior corralled 10 saves through the first overtime and three in the first two minutes of double overtime, including one of the sliding variety and one leaping save on a Halen fire. She earned her 15th save of the night on a Halen look from 25 yards in the closing seconds, carrying a fatigued Eagles team playing with only 11 players into penalty shots, where it would have one last chance.
With the Eagles off to a 2-1 lead in penalty kicks on goals from Nikki Gassert and Lyndse Priebe, Halen and Sanchez each bested Waller to close out penalty kicks with the Lynx on top 3-2, advancing Lesley to the NECC Championship (See video on soccer home page video player).
For Lesley, Corinne Dasti (Eastham, MA/Nauset) made one save, but more importantly held the Eagles to two goals on five shots in the shootout.
Lesley (11-5-3) advances to take on Mitchell in the NECC Championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Cambridge's Edward Field.