Blazers Earn NECC's Automatic Qualifying Bid to NCAA Division III Championship
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Elms College sophomore midfielder Victoria Cebula (Granby, Mass.) scored the game-winning goal in the 42nd minute of play and senior goalkeeper Kelly Callahan (Monson, Mass.) recorded eight saves as the third-seeded Blazers topped No. 1 Lesley University, 1-0 in Saturday afternoon's New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship women's soccer final at Edward Field in Cambridge, Mass.
With the win Elms (10-5-4 overall) secures its second NECC postseason title in four years and the league's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III Championship – the first in program history. The Blazers await Monday's NCAA tournament selection show to see who and where they will play in NCAA First Round action. Lesley (14-4-1) will look to secure either an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Championship or a berth in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship.
Saturday's win was the 10th of the season for the Blazers and marks the first time since 2008 that Elms has notched 10 wins in a season. The program record for wins is 14 which was set in 2006.
The sides played scoreless soccer through the first 41 minutes of the contest with Lesley owning a slim 6-4 advantage in shots. Elms' sophomore midfielder Gianna Gorneault (Springfield, Mass.) fired a shot that was saved but not controlled by Lynx goalkeeper Emileigh Lloyd (Middletown, Pa.) and Cebula tucked the rebound inside the right post at the 41:28 mark to give the Blazers a 1-0 lead at intermission.
In the second half, Lesley outshot Elms, 8-2 highlighted by shots on goal by Veronica Halen (San Diego, Calif.), Casey Decareau (Haverhill, Mass.) and Jamie Coyne (Mansfield, Mass.) but Callahan was able to turn away all three shots and secure the victory for Elms.
Gorneault finished with three of the Blazers' five shots on goal in the win, while Halen delivered three shots on target in the losing effort for Lesley. Lloyd finished with four saves and suffered the loss for Lesley.
Gorneault was named the 2011 NECC Tournament Most Valuable Player after assisting on the game's only goal. The sophomore scored three goals in the team's previous two tournament wins.
Saturday's loss marked the first for the Lynx in 12 games, and just the third time during the 2011 season that Lesley was shutout of a game. The loss is also the Lynx second straight in the NECC Championship final (lost to Mitchell College, 2-1 in 2010).
Elms enters NCAA tournament play having won seven of its last nine games dating back to Oct. 8.
2011 NECC All-Tournament Team
Gianna Gorneault (Elms) – Tournament MVP
Kelly Callahan (Elms)
Brianna Valente (Elms)
Ashley Venancio (Elms)
Jamie Coyne (Lesley)
Savannah Dunay (Lesley)
Tracy Potter (Lesley)
Taylor Smith (Lesley)
Keri Richardson (Becker)
Jodi Theriault (Becker)
Maariyah Lombardo (Mitchell)
Nina Giansanti (Mitchell)