Siena is heading to the NCAA Women's College Cup for the second time in program history. The Saints began the MAAC Tournament as the number six seed, but finished it as the clear champion after a 5-2 thrashing of Manhattan on Championship Sunday.
Siena has won six straight games entering the NCAA's, including victories over the top three finishers in the MAAC during their decisive Championship run. The five goals the Saints scored Sunday were the most in a MAAC Championship match ever.
Siena will find out its next destination Monday at 4:30 p.m. when the NCAA Tournament field is revealed on NCAA.com.
"What a run," Siena coach Steve Karbowski said. "We had our backs against the wall for the last month and we just didn't want to lose. We had great leadership, tremendous focus. I'm really proud of our group."
Sunday's championship felt more like a coronation after Siena struck three times in the first 21 minutes against one of the stingiest defenses in America.
Tournament MVP Allison Clark started the commotion with a header 42 seconds into the game following a well-played corner. Kristen Connors finished the second tally at the seven minute mark, and Madison Vasquez beat MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year Kristen Skonieczny with a brilliant shot in the upper right corner in the 21st minute.
"I thought we were a little off in warm-ups to be honest," Karbowski said. "But we work on corners all the time, and getting that first one through I think really loosened us up."
The sixth-seeded Saints needed a 2-0 victory at Quinnipiac on the final day of the regular-season to even qualify for the Tournament, their third straight win to end the regular-season. Their title run began with a 1-0 victory at rival Marist last Sunday, and became a reality after an impressive 2-1 victory over top-seed and Tournament host Monmouth Friday night.
Second-seeded Manhattan had lost just once in its last 11 matches against conference competition, including a 1-0 victory over Siena in Riverdale September 26. But the Japsers were no match for the Saints on this day.
Siena led 3-1 at the half, and put the game away with the first two strikes after intermission. Kensey Waterman's one-timer off a tight-angle feed from Clark in the 49th minute pushed the lead back to three goals, and Connors deflected in Tara Sobierajski's perfectly placed corner in the 74th minute for the dagger.
Emily Center finished the scoring with Manhattan's second goal in the 77th minute, but Siena was well on its way to victory by that point.
Connors (who scored her first two goals of the season Sunday), Vazquez and Kirby O'Keefe joined Clark on the All-Tournament Team.
Siena's only other MAAC Championship and NCAA appearance came in 2010 after a 1-0 overtime victory over Canisius.