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“So many things are unexplainable about this season,” said Emmanuel women’s soccer senior captain Ari Cardillo. “It didn’t look it we would play (Lasell) in the finals, but here we are.”
The Saints sat as low as fifth in the GNAC standings at the midway point in the season, with Lasell at the top, and it looked like the rematch of last year’s GNAC title game would be coming in the semifinals. When all was said and done, however, the stars had aligned just right.
The Saints climbed to third in the GNAC standings in time for the tournament, got some magic in the quarterfinals from standout goalkeeper turned goal scorer Tori Laroche in a penalty kick shootout against Albertus Magnus, and junior captain Maggie Carey found the back of the net in overtime in the semis to top Johnson & Wales. On the other side of the bracket, Lasell needed an eight-round shootout to advance past Saint Joseph (Conn.) in the semifinals to advance to Saturday’s title game.
And just like that, the stage has been set. #3 Emmanuel and #1 Lasell for the GNAC Championship. Once again.
But don’t expect this year’s game to be like last year’s. The Lasers took the 2014 GNAC Championship game, their fifth straight title, by a score of 6-1.
“They knew they were going to win last season,” said Cardillo. “I mean, they already had a cake that said ‘Congratulations GNAC Champions’ waiting for them after the game.”
“There’s nothing stopping us this year,” said Carey. The graduation of twin sisters from Lasell Bridget (98 career goals in 86 games) and Kayla Lynch (34 career goals in 84 games) make the team more manageable from a defensive perspective. When the two teams faced off in the regular season this year on September 19, the Lasers scored with just 2:01 left on the clock to take a 1-0 victory.
“We’ve gotten a lot better since last season,” said senior captain Katelyn Fink. The additions of freshmen Mikayla Guthrie and Kayla Generis have given the Saints solid depth in the forward and midfield positions, while classmate defensive-minded midfielder Emily Medeiros has been key off the bench, helping the Saints keep the ball in the attacking half.
The Saints have put all this on the back burner though, focusing all of their attention on the task at hand. “It’s just another soccer game,” said Laroche. Laroche, with a current shutout streak at 496:19, seems destined for an all-conference selection, and if she truly keeps playing like all her recent soccer games, the Saints will have a very good shot at ending Lasell’s five-year reign atop the GNAC. “We want it more than they want it.”
“We’re trying not to play it up,” said Maggie Carey. “Yeah (last year’s loss) still stings, but I’m fired up, not nervous, just fired up.”
“We’re taking it from them,” said senior Molly Carey.
Saturday’s GNAC Championship kicks off at 1:00 p.m. at Taylor Field on the campus of Lasell College. A fan bus leaves from Emmanuel’s Jean Yawkey Center at 12:00 p.m. If you cannot make it out to Newton, be sure to follow @ECtheHubSports on Twitter for live updates from the field.
Curtis Fraser ’16 is a staff writer and the Sports Editor of The Hub. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.