Sat. Dec 3rd, 2022

The West Chester women’s soccer team took back the title of PSAC Champions when they defeated Kutztown 2-1 on Saturday morning at West Chester’s South Campus field, which was crowded with friends, family and past members of the soccer team.Sarah Oswald and Laura Bodenstab each recorded a goal for the Rams as they beat their visiting Eastern Division rivals. Goalie Lyndsie Bernardini was in typical form as she turned away seven Kutztown shots, including a couple game savers.

The win over Kutztown came after two convincing playoff wins earlier in the week, which secured their position in the championship game. In the quarterfinal, West Chester defeated Bloomsburg 3-0 with goals by Laura Bodenstab, Melissa McKeary and Sarah Oswald. They later went on to beat IUP 4-1 in a semifinal matchup that saw goals by Tara Malkiewicz, Melissa McKeary and two by Jen Hutchinson.

As West Chester headed into the post season, they were relying on the momentum from their successful season to push them all the way through to the championships. They ended the regular season with an unbeaten streak of 16 games. However, junior captain Jess Bennett said the team is not underestimating any of their opponents.

“Our team is entering the postseason like we would enter any game,” Bennett said. “We train and prepare for one game at a time. Every team is different so we prepare for every game differently. We have had an amazing season thus far, but with the playoffs anything can happen and you have to work for every win.”

Saturday morning, West Chester would be forced to put that mentality into action as they faced their last obstacle en route to their second championship in three years.

Kutztown evenly matched West Chester’s first half of play. The defense had to work hard to keep Kutztown’s offense out of their zone and didn’t see as many offensive opportunities as usual. It wasn’t until late in the first half that West Chester was able to put together a good string of offensive chances. However, neither team was able to capitalize on their opportunities and they went into halftime tied at 0-0.

But the second half was a different story. After almost 70 minutes of scoreless soccer, West Chester got on the board after a corner kick from Jen Gangl was headed in by Laura Bodenstab. Only five minutes later, West Chester extended their lead to two with a goal from Sarah Oswald that resulted from another Gangl assist. Oswald’s goal ultimately became the game winner for the home team. Gangl came off the bench to be a significant contributor to the Rams’ win.

Kutztown’s only glimmer of hope came when their freshman forward Stephanie Barnett put one past Lyndsie Bernardini to cut the West Chester lead in half with only 1:13 left to play. Bernardini was required to make the biggest save of the game when Kutztown came close to tying up the game with only 20 seconds left to play. A Kutztown forward placed a shot to the lower left hand corner of the net, but a sprawled out Bernardini was able to reject the shot.

It was too little too late for Kutztown as the time winded down and West Chester was able to celebrate their victory. The game was immediately followed by the trophy presentation.

West Chester received help on both sides of the field, as their defense was just as important as their offense.

“Our team is extremely well rounded this year,” Bennett said. “From our goalie to our forwards we are a solid team. We have really come together all over the field. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Unlike past years, we are not relying on two or three players to carry us through the season. We are all a part of the offensive success and we are all a part of the defensive success.”

Sarah Oswald, who recorded two goals and four assists in three tournament games, was named the PSAC Tournament Most Valuable Player, which was her second collegiate MVP award. Her first was in the 2007 PSAC Tournament. Her goal against Bloomsburg was the 40th of her career. She scored the game-winning goal in the championship win.

“I am very proud of our team,” Bennett said. “We have had amazing success this year and we have great potential to grow as well. We have a very strong starting 11 and a very strong and deep bench that we have not even begun to tap into yet. I have no doubt that we can continue to be just as successful as we were in the regular season. We have already proven that we can do it, now we just have to put it together on the field at game time.”

West Chester will now wait and see what their matchups will be in the NCAA tournament. Going into the championship game on Saturday, they were ranked first in the Atlantic Region. Championship selections will take place on Monday, Nov. 9th and will be announced online at NCAA.com at 7 p.m.

Amy Festa is a third-year student majoring in English with a minor in Journalism. She can be reached at AF649219@wcupa.edu.

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