READING, Pa. -- The Penn State Berks women's soccer team won its fifth straight North Eastern Athletic Conference Championship Title after defeating Penn College, 4-0, on Nov. 5. Caitlin Golden was selected as the NEAC Tournament MVP. Then on Nov. 12, the Nittany Lions had its 2017 season draw to a close with a 2-1 setback in overtime to No. 12 ranked SUNY Geneseo in the first round of the NCAA Regional Tournament.
With the victory, Berks punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year.
During the Nov. 5 game against Penn College, the Nittany Lions (15-5-1) got on the board with a goal by Megan Jardine at the 12:06 mark of the opening period. Melissa Martin found the back of the net with an unassisted goal in the 17th minute to extend the lead to 2-0. The score remained that way for the remainder of the first half, but Golden tacked on a pair of goals in the second period to put the game out of reach. Monica Pinel played a ball over to Golden from inside the box to set up the score in the 51st minute. On Golden's second score of the match, Alexa Lopez crossed a perfect ball from the left side and Golden was able to send a header past the keeper at the 80:31 mark.
Golden has now recorded 73 goals in her career, which moved her past Lizzie Mummau (71) as the leading goal scorer in program history.
The Nittany Lions again possessed the ball for the bulk of the match with the strong play in the midfield (Lopez, Jardine, Julia Green, Charlotte Pizzuto, Pinel) and from the back line (Shelby Baker, Mackenzie Fredricks, Karina Raykova, Jess Mandeville). Paige Elmy, who made the save on the only shot to make it to goal, paired with Kaylee Frapaul to earn the shutout victory, which was the 13th shutout of the season.
The Nittany Lions finished the regular season and postseason without conceding a single goal to NEAC opponents. Ryann Barreto came off the bench to add valuable minutes to the defense, while Gabby Crawford provided depth up top. Sarah McMullen and Amanda McCormick helped in the midfield.For the game, Berks outshot the Wildcats (9-6-5) by a 27-3 margin and held a 9-0 advantage on corner kicks.
Then on Nov. 12, the Nittany Lions had its 2017 season draw to a close with a 2-1 setback in overtime to No. 12 ranked SUNY Geneseo in the first round of the NCAA Regional Tournament. The Nittany Lions, who had their season-high nine match-win streak snapped, finish the season with a 15-6-1 overall record. Berks earned its fifth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament after defeating Penn College, 4-0, in the NEAC Championship last Sunday.
Melissa Martin broke through with a goal at the 32:58 mark of the opening period to give Berks a 1-0 advantage. The lead would stay going into the halftime break and throughout the bulk of the second period. With the Nittany Lions clinging to a late lead, the Knights (17-1-2) were able to find the equalizer with a goal at the 88:11 mark of the match. Regulation ended with the score knotted at 1-1 to send the Nittany Lions into overtime for the first time ever in NCAA Tournament history. Geneseo held possession for the bulk of the extra period, collecting four shots and one corner kick. In the 98th minute, Taylor Clar drove a free kick to Leah Greene, who took the ball from outside the box and drilled the game winner inside the left post.
For the match, the Knight's outshot Berks by a 25-9 margin and held a 5-2 advantage on corner kicks. One of Berks' finest scoring chances came in the 68th minute after earning a corner kick. Alexa Lopez played a ball short to Megan Jardine, who worked her way past the defense and ripped a shot over the keeper, but the ball smacked off the crossbar and out of harms way. After working the ball through the midfield, Martin was able to get behind the defense and get off a shot that sailed just wide of the goal in the 82nd minute. Martin turned a solid effort up top for the Nittany Lions in 97+ minutes of action. She was set up by the tremendous play out of midfielders Jardine, Lopez, Julia Green, Monica Pinel, and Charlotte Pizzuto. That group of midfielders were also just as vital on defense in limiting the Geneseo offensive attacks. Gabby Crawford provided strong minutes off the bench and made several long runs in the second half. The defensive back line rose to the occasion, while playing every second of the match. Mackenzie Fredricks and Jess Mandeville were solid at the outside, despite playing on a wider field than they are used to defending on. The duo of Shelby Baker and Karina Raykova were solid at center back. Paige Elmy and Kaylee Frapaul split time in goal for the Nittany Lions. Both made heads up plays defending crosses and long plays in front of the box. Elmy compiled eight saves throughout the match.
With the bulk of the team able to return next season, the Nittany Lions will look to build on the experience gained by their young squad on the national stage.