HAMILTON, N.Y. – In a rematch of the first Patriot League game of the 2020-21 season, Navy and Colgate battled for over 110 minutes of regulation and overtime action and into penalty kicks to decide the 2020-21 Patriot League Women's Soccer Championship on Saturday afternoon. Knowing that this was potentially the last game of their careers, the Mids' senior trio of Kristina Dzhandzhapanyan, Molly Swiger and Emily Keast left it all out on the line and made sure that there would be one more game in 2021 and one more championship trophy coming back to Annapolis. Dzhandzhapanyan got the Mids on the scoreboard first with a goal in the 13th minute before Swiger and Keast starred in the penalty kick period. Swiger made saves of two of Colgate's first three penalty kicks before Keast sent home the winning kick in round four to set off a raucous celebration for the Mids in the center of Colgate's Beyer-Small '76 Field. The final score of Saturday's game was officially 1-1 with Navy collecting the title and the Patriot League's automatic bid into the NCAA Championship via penalty kicks, 4-1.
This championship victory is the fifth in program history and second consecutive title. Navy has won in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2019 and now 2020-21.
"Wow! This really was Senior Day!" exclaimed a joyous Carin Gabarra postgame. "I'm so proud of our three seniors, that had a hand in every single part of this win. This has been such a long and difficult season, but no matter the circumstances, we found a way; that's a testament to the leadership that Tina, Molly and Emily bring to this program.
"Championship games aren't always the best games because the two teams know each other well and are facing off in the last game of a long season. We ran into an excellent Colgate team today. They were well-coached and very organized. They gave us a lot of trouble; it was very hard for us to get quality looks on offense and they were constantly pressuring us on defense. A lot of credit has to go to our defensive line today, they stepped up and played a huge role in getting us to PKs. In penalty kicks anything can happen, but Molly and Emily made sure we controlled what we could. Coming in just for PKs, Molly was money. That was our plan and she was clutch. What a game!"
The Mids came out on a mission as the visitors tested the Raiders' goalie Sophia Boggs in the fourth minute when Victoria Tran (Jr., Clarksville, Md.) tried to sneak curling shot around the near post, but Boggs secured the shot. Less than 10 minutes later, Navy's second shot on goal found the back of the net as Carolyn Mang (Jr., River Hill, Md.) played a deep through ball up the middle and found a sprinting Dzhandzhapanyan (Sr., Diamond Bar, Calif.), who buzzed past Colgate's defenders, who were playing a high flat line. With 40 yards of turf between her and the goal, Dzhandzhapanyan dribbled unabated to the top of the 18 and chipped the on-coming Boggs into the empty net at 12:21.
Colgate's first high percentage scoring opportunity to tie the game came in the 32nd minute when Hannah Pinkus tracked down the bouncing ball and ripped a shot that sailed wide left of Navy's net. A little over four minutes later, the Raiders earned a pair of corner kick chances that were served dangerously into the six-yard box. In both cases, Navy cleared the ball away from the goal mouth. A third straight corner kick ended up as one too many for the Mids as the host Raiders converted it at 40:09 when Lauren Rougas leapt up and headed home Ruby Diodati's lofted corner.
The game advanced to the halftime intermission with that 1-1 score. At the break, Colgate held a slight advantage in total shots, 4-3, over Navy and a larger 4-0 margin in corner kicks.
Knotted on the scoreboard, the second half opened with 30 minutes of near even soccer as both teams registered four shots through the 80th minute. The action began with a quick burst by Colgate in Navy's final third that saw back-to-back shots for the hosts, including one on goal, an Emily DeNunzio attempt that was handled by Mattie Gallagher (Fr., Gilbertsville, Pa.) with ease. Following that push by the Raiders, the Mids then trekked their way down the field and tallied a pair of shots within a two-minute period. The second, was a well-struck shot by Keast (Sr., Springfield, Va.) but right into an awaiting Boggs in the 56th minute.
Gallagher's number was called once again in the 69th minute when she turned aside Sarah Anelli's effort.
Aggressive end-to-end action highlighted the final six minutes of regulation as Gallagher came up large for the Mids as she navigate a cluttered box and handled Lyna Schaffer's header off a set piece. A little over a minute later, it was Navy's turn to challenge for the go-ahead goal as Kassidy Borden (Fr., Leesburg, Va.) and Avery Fries (Jr., Draper, Utah) each lined up shots towards the goal off of a loose ball following a corner kick. Borden's shot was blocked before Fries gathered the rebound and ripped a shot was handled by Boggs.
Tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, Colgate controlled the majority of action in the two overtime periods as they tallied seven of the combined eight shots over the 20 minutes of sudden victory competition. In the first 10-minute period, Colgate's Ally Giovino took both of the Raiders' shots; her first in the 95th minute required Gallagher to sprawl out and dive as Giovino's shot had eyes for the low left corner of the goal.
In the second overtime period it was more tense moments for the Mids as the Raiders rattled off three shots in the first 4:50, punctuated by a wide open shot by Mia Ciardello that was blocked in the last moment by Sadie McCaleb (So., Loganton, Pa.), who darted in from the side and threw her leg in the way of Ciardello's attempt. Gallagher made her second save in extra time when she snagged a header shot on goal by Adrienne Vaughn with just over two minutes left in the stanza. That stop clinched the 1-1 draw for Navy and it was onto penalty kicks.
In a theme that has played out throughout this unique 2020-21 season, the Mids' depth starred in penalty kicks. Freshman Kat Healey (King George, Va.) was the first player to step to penalty spot. Scoreless throughout her rookie season, Healey made sure she found the back of the net in penalty kicks on Saturday as she placed her shot easily past Boggs into the left side of the goal mouth. With the count tied 1-1, fellow freshman Kassidy Borden, a defender with no shots on goal in 2020-21, came in and smashed home the Mids' second PK conversion. The next unsung hero to appear in penalty kicks was Swiger (Sr., Johns Creek, Ga.), who hadn't appeared in a game for Navy during the spring portion of the season. A trusted backup and veteran leader in the Mids' goalkeeper union, Swiger made her appearance count as she dove to the right and denied Sage DiGiulio's shot in round two. Up 2-1, Mang expanded Navy's lead to two with a soft changeup of a shot to the right corner. Swiger's confidence continued to shine as she made her second consecutive save in PKs as she leapt to her left and pushed away Lyna Schaffer's shot. Ahead 3-1 through three rounds, Keast calmly sank the championship-winning PK with a well-placed shot up the middle. That conversation by Keast set off a celebration that Navy fans could hear all the way back in Annapolis as the Mids were the 2020-21 Patriot League Women's Soccer Champions.
For the game, Colgate outshot Navy, 19-10 with a 6-4 advantage in shots on goal. The host Raiders also carried an 8-2 advantage in corner kicks as they constantly pressured the Mids throughout the 110-minute contest.
After the postgame celebration, four Midshipmen were announced to the All-Patriot League Tournament Team: Katie Herrmann (Fr., Charlotte, N.C.), Carolyn Mang, Molly Swiger and the Tournament MVP Kristina Dzhandzhapanyan.
The Mids will find out their matchup for the upcoming NCAA Championship Tournament on Monday afternoon when the brackets are announced on NCAA.com beginning at 1 p.m. The first round of the NCAA Tournament will be competed over a two-day period, April 27-28 at locations throughout the state of North Carolina.