November 4, 2012
TWO IN A ROW
LIU women reach NCAAs again, besting St. Francis (Pa.) on late goal for NEC title
LORETTO, Pa. - Senior Toni Smith scored in the 86th minute to lift Long Island University to a 1-0 victory over Saint Francis (Pa.) as the Blackbirds earned their second successive Northeast Conference women's tournament title on Sunday afternoon.
The Blackbirds, who have a six-game winning streak and a 10-game unbeaten streak, earned the third NEC championship and booked a berth in the NCAA Division I Tournament, which begins on Nov. 9-11. The selection show will be held on NCAA.com on Monday at 4:30 p.m.
After the Red Flash had controlled the pace of play for an extended stretch of the second half, a quick win of a 50-50 ball at midfield gave the Blackbirds possession in St. Francis territory.
Kunisawa gathered the loose ball and slid a pass to Smith, who made a run up the left flank. Smith right-footed a bending shot far post that beat All-NEC second-team goalkeeper Brianna Butcher for her team-leading seventh goal.
The goal was preceded by a flurry of chances for the Red Flash. NEC player of the year Tessa McKibben had a shot from the left side in the 82nd minute that was saved near post by Sexton and had another a couple of minutes later that went wide. Seconds before the game-winning goal, Sexton again came up big by stopping a slow-rolling attempt from Brittany Hasson.
Sexton, a Rochester, N.Y. native who was the 2010 NEC goalkeeper of the year, finished with seven saves and earned tournament MVP honors after posting consecutive shutouts.
In the first half, LIUís best chance came in the 38th minute as junior Shino Kunisawa dribbled the ball up the left side and fired a shot that was denied by goalkeeper Brianna Butcher.
The Red Flash held a 7-5 shot advantage over the first 45 minutes.
In the 56th minute, a left-footed blast from 20 yards by Kunisawa clipped the crossbar and was deflected over by Butcher for a corner kick.
The Red Flash had a prime opportunity in the 65th minute as a crossing pass from the left side came near post. The ball kicked around in front of Sexton but was cleared away before a St. Francis attacker could get a boot on it.
Following the goal, Saint Francis had one last-gasp effort but a shot from McKibben was blocked and another attempt from Eloa Nascimento went wide.
The Red Flash held a 16-8 advantage in shots and had seven corner kicks to LIU's two.
The Blackbirds, led by seniors Nicole Labo, Lauryn Bretches, Jeanette Dolmetsch, Katie Egan and Angie Young, held McKibben off the scoresheet. McKibben had scored 19 goals and registered 11 assists in 20 matches.
Sexton was joined on the all-tournament team by Egan, Smith and Labo.