SAN ANTONIO — The Penn State Berks women's soccer team saw its record-setting 2016 season draw to a close with a 2-0 setback to No. 2 ranked Trinity (Texas) University in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 on Saturday afternoon (Nov. 19) at Paul McGinlay Soccer Field.
The Nittany Lions finish the year with the farthest run in the NCAA Tournament of any team in any sport at Penn State Berks after reaching the Sweet 16. The 2016 squad set the program record for wins (19), shutouts (15), and goals against average (0.57).
The opening half started out slow for the Nittany Lions, but they were able to gain their composure and starting putting pressure on the Tigers (23-0) midway through the period. In the span of one minute, nine seconds, the Nittany Lions were on the doorstep with a pair of shots by Dana Sarcinello and Lizzie Mummau that got past the keeper, but were knocked away by members of the Trinity defensive back line to leave the score at 0-0.
Down the stretch in the first half, Trinity had a few shots sail high or go wide. The best opportunity for the Tigers came with two seconds remaining in the half when Meredith Licata's shot from the right side of the box slammed off the far left post, missing a goal by mere inches.
In the second half, Chelsea Cole took a feed off of a cross and found the back of the net for the first goal of the game in the 48th minute. The Tigers later tacked on a goal in the 84th minute to build a comfortable two goal lead, which they would hold the rest of the way.
Sophomore keeper Paige Elmy was on top of her game for the Nittany Lions. She made three magnificent leaping saves in the second half, which kept the score at 1-0 at the time, on her way to finishing with seven stops on the day. In addition, Elmy had several clutch punch outs off of corner kicks and kept off the back line to pick up inserts coming into the box. Elmy finishes the season with 16 wins, 53 saves, a 0.71 goals against average, and an .815 save percentage.
Senior Brennan Moyer turned in her usual strong play on the back line, but also had some great efforts on the offensive third of the field. Late in the second half, Moyer worked the ball up from midfield and sent in a pass up in front of the net that was just out of the reach of the Berks attack.
In the 68th minute, Tierney Thomison snuck past the back line and was alone for a breakaway. Shelby Baker came racing out of nowhere and was able to get in front of Thomison and deflect the ball out of play to deny what looked like to be a guaranteed goal.
Elmy, with the help of Moyer, Baker, Megan Jardine, and Karina Raykova have played some of their finest defense this season over the three NCAA Tournament games and the pair of NEAC postseason contests. The unit has created such a chemistry and bond over the course of the season and played a central role in leading the program to a new level of success.
The midfield unit of Sarcinello, Alexa Lopez, Kaylie Smucker, and Charlotte Pizzuto all played with a high work rate and were relied on as two-way players. Mummau and Caitlin Golden continued their speedy, relentless play up top, while also coming back to help on defense when needed. Julia Green, Mackenzie Fredricks, Nicole Brigante, and Morgan Shade put in solid efforts off the bench to spell some of the starters.
"We knew we were good enough to get this far into the season," said head coach Adrian Munteanu. "To actually go out and do it was a validation of everything we believed in. I cannot be any happier to see our seniors go out, than the way they did."
The senior group of Sarcinello, Mummau, Moyer, and Shade were a part of a special era for the Nittany Lions and will go out as part of the most successful class in program history. In the last four years, the Nittany Lions have gone 69-14-4 overall, 48-0 in the conference and have won the NEAC Regular Season and Tournament all four years. Sarcinello had the rare accomplishment of being named the NEAC Player of the Year all four years of her career. All four members etched their names in the record books and have many amazing achievements to remember fondly.
With the bulk of the team able to return and the addition of new recruits, the future continues to look bright. The special group of seniors will be sorely missed, but the impact that they made will be felt as they took the program to the next level.