In the Atlantic Region Final of the NCAA Division II Tournament, the No. 14 West Chester University Lady Rams (14-3-5) fell to the No. 17 Mercyhurst College Lady Lakers 1-0 in a cold and breezy Farrell Stadium on Friday afternoon.”Very much frustrating,” head coach Betty Ann Kempf Townsley said. “Obviously we had so many opportunities to score and couldn’t put the ball in the net. I’m happy with the way the players played. I’m not happy with the result.”
The Lady Rams were looking to avenge a loss to the Lady Lakers in the PSAC Semifinals two weeks ago, which resulted in West Chester not winning the PSAC Championship for the first time in three years, but they were not able to solve Mercyhurst goal keeper Rebecca Heintzman.
“We actually wrote on our hands R.I.A.B,” star sophomore Sarah Oswald said of a revenge type of game for West Chester. “We write that on every time we have revenge for a team. When you take a PSAC championship away from us it’s always going to be in our minds.”
“To [Mercyhurst’s] credit they fought hard,” Kempf Townsley said about the last two losses to the Lady Lakers. “They won the last two games and that’s what it takes.”
West Chester began the attack early but was not able to score. Senior forward Brittany Yetter had a chance to score early but the ball hit off the post and went back to Mercyhurst.
The game went back-and-forth as neither team was able to get rhythm early on during the game. Jenna Arnold, who had a strong game for the Lady Rams, had another scoring opportunity for West Chester but she too was not able to find the back of the net.
At around the 18-minute mark, Mercyhurst defenseman Jamie Schroter provided the Lady Lakers their best opportunity for a goal in the game when she kicked a corner kick that bounced off the top crossbar and was cleared by the Lady Rams.
The Lady Lakers would come right back down the field, but this time the outcome would be different. Off a pass from midfielder Christine Rehnert, midfielder Karla Vogt kicked the ball off the far post from 20 yards out and into the net to give the visitors the lead with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
West Chester came out in the second half determined to even up the score and come away with a victory. Following a couple scoring opportunities from the leading scorer in the PSAC, Mercyhurst’s Sarah Powell, the Lady Rams began their attack on the Mercyhurst goal.
Six minutes into the second half, Yetter took a shot that had a chance to go in but was blocked by Heintzman from going into the net. A couple seconds later, sophomore midfielder Laura Bodenstad had a chance to score off a rebound from the Yetter shot but the ball hit off the post and was cleared by the Mercyhurst defense.
Most of the second half was owned by West Chester, but they were not able to put the ball in the net to tie the game. A little under the 36 minute mark, Arnold had an attempt to score but kicked two soft shots that were corralled by Heintzman.
With less than 15 minutes remaining in the game, Oswald went to work. Oswald matriculated her way through the Mercyhurst defense but was unable to find the back of the net and get her team on the board.
“It’s always frustrating when you can’t score a goal because that’s the only way you’re going to win a game,” Oswald said. “Jenna had a lot of opportunities, I had some. Everyone had chances. It just didn’t fall today. I thought at least one was going to go in and just go our way and put a little fire under our butts.”
Arnold again attempted to score West Chester’s first goal of the game but was unable to as she kicked the ball wide of the net. With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, Oswald found Arnold who could not get off a strong kick to tie the game.
West Chester’s frantic attempt at tying the game and forcing overtime fell short as Mercyhurst walked out of Farrell Stadium the Atlantic Region Champions.
“I really thought we had a lot of the momentum,” Kempf Townsley said. “I don’t even know if they had a shot on goal in the second half but I thought we had the momentum going. We were playing with a lot of heart and a lot of emotion and desire. We were there and just couldn’t finish.
“We can’t be upset with the effort for our last game,” senior defenseman Lauren Boyer said. “I think we dominated most of the game. We did play very well. It’s unfortunate.”
“We played really hard,” Oswald said. “We came out here knowing that Mercyhurst was a very good team. They had beaten us in the semifinals of the PSAC’s; we had beaten them in the regular season so we knew it could go either way. It’s really tough losing in the regional finals also on your home field. A lot of emotion went into this game and it probably will be carried over into next season.”
West Chester outshot the Lady Lakers in the second half but could not get on passed Heintzman. Senior goal keeper Hilary Smart recorded four saves in her final game as a Lady Ram.
“We played hard and we did everything we could do, basically it could have gone either way,” Smart, the school’s all-time winner in victories (55), said.
The senior class composed of Smart, Yetter, Boyer, Brittany Barnes, Emily Palombo, Rita Alton and Meghan Rath leave as one of the best classes to ever play for the Lady Rams.
“I came in with them, we’ve done everything that we could have done together,” the tearful Smart said of her fellow classmates. “We went as far as we could every year with each other.”
“Being with the girls that we’ve been with for four years,” Boyer said. “Everything that we’ve gone through: three coaches and all the adversity that we have faced, especially as a class, it’s amazing how close we were and how well we stuck together. I love those girls. My senior class in awesome.”
“We knew this could be the last game for our seniors and unfortunately it had to be,” Oswald said. “Both Hilary and Barnes are really good in goal. It’s going to be really hard to replace both of them. It’s obviously going to be very hard to replace Boyer. She’s so strong and so full of courage losing her in the back is going to be really hard to fill. Emily is a great defender, very vocal. Yetter is a big presence in our midfield. Everyone’s shoes are going to be hard to fill and hopefully we get a lot of good recruits to come in and fill them.”
“They are a great group of seniors,” Kempf Townsley said. “I wish we could have them another year. They set a great foundation for what I hope to continue a successful program.”
LJ Harrell is a third-year student majoring in business. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.