The Lady Rams fell on Friday, Nov. 4 in a very familiar fashion as last year’s PSAC tournament. They yet again found themselves facing their bitter rival, East Stroudsburg (14-4-2), and lost in penalty kicks 3-2. West Chester (18-0-1) lost in last year’s tournament to the same team, with a similar result.

This marks the first loss on the season for the women but it should not knock them out of potential NCAA tournament play.

Their tournament began on a high note earlier in the week when they faced IUP (8-7-1 PSAC’s) in a quarterfinal matchup. The team came out victorious with a 1-0 score, and keeper Alex Srolis notching her eighth shutout of the year.

The lone goal came off a header by West Chester’s leading goal scorer Scarlett Walsh. She was set up on the goal by defender Carly Henry, who laid in a beautiful cross to the far post that allowed Walsh the opportunity to break a scoreless tie in the 53rd minute. Henry earned her second assist of the year on Walsh’s eighth goal of the season.

Having Walsh back on the field is a huge boost offensively for the team as she missed multiple matches late in the regular season due to a lower body injury. Her absence did allow other players the opportunity to showcase their talents and gain confidence in their own abilities, so the hope is that this new-found epth throughout the team will lead to more success.

Unfortunately, their success will not result in a PSAC championship title as they had their hopes dashed by their next opponent, East Stroudsburg. The two teams played to a tie in regulation, as they proved to be about as even in skill as their first match showed. Earlier this year the two teams played an extremely close match. Freshman Jenny Bail broke a scoreless tie in the final minute to give West Chester the win.

This time around there would be goals to be had in the first 90 minutes. The Warriors would be the team to strike first. In the 56th minute, Senior Hannah Gombos took a free kick from a few yards outside the box. The kick would prove to be too difficult for anyone in white to get away as Sophomore Alex Pickett would convert amongst the chaos in front to give East Stroudsburg the lead. This was the 14th goal of the season for the PSAC first-team all-conference member.

West Chester would answer in the 67th minute with two of their own All-PSAC players. It would again be Walsh and Henry linking up on the goal. Off a long free kick, Sophomore Julia Kirkpatrick left the ball off for Henry who crossed the ball in where Walsh flew across to head the ball into the far side of the net.

The match would continue with the two teams each coming up with opportunities to break the tie. The two keepers, Srolis and Jules Harris, stood their ground as they have all year, forcing the match in to penalty kicks.

In a test of nerves, it was the Warriors who proved to have the advantage. They already had the experience of last year, as well as the PSAC Defensive Athlete of the Year in Harris. Harris would come up huge in the clutch, making three out of the five saves needed, while Srolis’ only stop came from the post. The Warriors would capitalize on their attempts to win the shootout 3-2 and advance to the PSAC Championship, looking to retain their crown.

The loss to ESU marks the second straight season in which WCU fell to the Warriors in PKs during the PSAC Tournament. Last season they defeated the Golden Rams 4-3 in penalties during the PSAC quarterfinals. East Stroudsburg also ended WCU’s season in the NCAA Tournament, defeating them 2-1 in overtime in the first round of the tournament.

For the Golden Rams, it is a heartbreaking loss after such a tremendous season. They are not done yet, though, as they have NCAA Tournament hopes ahead, where they hope to shake off their loss and play up to the level they know they can.

Ryan Hunt is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RH803937@wcupa.edu.

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