The Erie Community College women's soccer team is one win away from capturing the NJCAA Division III national title after drawing Montgomery Community College, 2-2, but advancing on penalty kicks, 4-3.
The Kats' Sam Carey was both the starter and the finisher, potting a goal 39 seconds into the contest to put Erie on the front foot and then slamming the door on the Raptors by coolly depositing her penalty kick to end the shootout.
ECC keeper Hannah Clarkson stopped 14 of 16 shots in regulation, while fellow goalkeeper Alex Zentz saw one Montgomery penalty sail over the crossbar and dove to her left to push aside another. Leading scorer and three-time NJCAA Player of the Week Abbey Lombard scored the other goal in regulation for Gary Boughton's squad.
Michelle Martinucci, Mackenzie Neary, Brea Borynski and Carey all took their penalties with aplomb for Erie, which heads to the national championship game at 1 p.m. Nov. 13 against Broome Community College in Toms River, New Jersey. The two teams have already met once this season, with Broome winning 2-0 on Oct. 14.
Boughton's team was better prepared from the start - Lombard received the ball with her back to goal on the left wing, took a few touches and served a cross along the 18-yard box. As a Montgomery defender hesitated, Carey pounced on the loose ball and rolled a shot into the left corner of the goal - choosing precise placement over power.
Three minutes later, a strong tackle in midfield by Brea Borynski allowed Kallie Smith to surge down the right wing, and Smith cut back to her left foot and crossed low. Lombard's late run cut across the face of the defender - giving her time to take a touch and smash a shot off the left post and in.
The Raptors wouldn't concede that easily, though, as the Maryland-based side answered back with goals in the 43rd and 50th minutes, forcing ECC to play stiff defense over the game's final 40 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtimes. The specter of penalty kicks wasn't too big for Erie - even Martinucci and Zentz, who didn't see a minute of time before the shootout, kept their poise under heavy pressure.
Broome sits at 20-1 on the season, beating Anoka-Ramsey and Brookhaven en route to the final, while Erie took down two-time defending champions Brookdale on Thursday before Friday's wild win.
Email Ben Tsujimoto at firstname.lastname@example.org