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Ibey's brace helps Niagara women claw past Rider in MAAC quarters

Annie Ibey's freshman exploits have come out of nowhere, surprising even the Niagara striker herself.

Now with 10 goals on the campaign - including both in the Purple Eagles' 2-1 ousting of Rider in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference quarterfinals Sunday - the Niagara Falls, Ont., native was bashful in describing her breakout season.

"Um, no, definitely not," Ibey answered when asked if she expected individual success to this extent. And that serenity she seems to possess in front of goal? It's more complicated in her head.

"The team knows I'm keeping my head down - because I've put a few of them [over] the net, but it's got to be for the seniors and got to be for the team, I've got to capitalize. It's all kind of flustered in my head; 'You've got to score this!'"

What separates closely matched playoff teams battling uncomfortable late-October weather and the pressure of a season's worth of work is often finishing, taking the few chances generated each game and putting them in the back of the net. Ibey, belying her age, has been a smooth criminal in front of goal.

[Read more about NU women's soccer, with a focus on Amelia Gulley]

Niagara women's soccer celebrates Annie Ibey's second goal in Sunday's win. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

Hailing from high school powerhouse St. Michael's, just 20 minutes from NU, Ibey (pronounced (IBE-ee) is accustomed to a strong supporting cast, and she credits her two fellow attackers - junior Kelsey Araujo and senior Hailey Bicknell - for putting her in a position to succeed.

"I play well with Kels and Hay - and our team really works well together, especially when we practice hard," Ibey said. "When you have that good of a team around you makes the chances a lot easier."

Her goals, which came in the 10th and 29th minutes against Rider (at :40 and 1:10 of the video, below), were both started by industrious efforts in the midfield by Ashley Lofranco and Veda Hensel, respectively.

[Read: Men's and women's college teams in Buffalo area that made playoffs]

Veda Hensel, in white, was instrumental in Niagara's second - and eventual game-winning goal on Sunday. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

Lofranco's 30-yard dribble up the right wing and layoff to Araujo put the fleet-footed attacker in a threatening area, and she sliced inside to draw a help defender's attention.

As Ibey faded her run off the back shoulder of her marker, Araujo snapped a lefty strike toward goal - the deflected shot looped favorably toward the back post where Ibey met the service with a first-time left-footed volley.

Later in the first half, Hensel won a header in midfield to find Araujo, then sprinted forward to join the attack. Araujo cut her cross back sharply from the right wing, and while Hensel's first touch let her down, she poked the ensuing loose ball through the legs of a Broncs defender to Ibey for an easy left-footed finish at the left post.


Niagara managed to protect its lead despite conceding in the 76th, when Rider's Kourtney Cunningham pounced on a long touch by Niagara defender Breanne Guevara and surprised Shania van Nuland from close range.

Niagara goalkeeper Shania van Nuland made seven saves in the win over Rider. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)


The Purple Eagles defense was forced to absorb considerable pressure over the final 15 minutes, with Selena Mangoni - well-positioned next to the post after a Rider set-piece - blocking a powerful shot that had beaten van Nuland, and then the Dutch goalkeeper leaving her line to deny Niamh Cashin with a sliding challenge in a one-on-one chance created by Cunningham.

Van Nuland wound up with seven saves, including an earlier flying save on Valeria Pacquet (2:30 of the highlight reel) at which her teammates marveled.

The goalkeeper, who's been with the program since 2015 and splits playing time with Sabrina Locas, is one of the players for which Veltri feels elated.

"We've been through a lot the last few years, for the seniors and upperclassmen that have never experienced this, I'm so happy for them," glowed the head coach, who's spend 20 seasons on Monteagle Ridge. "For the new people, it's awesome because they don't know any different, and I like that. This should be the expectation every year."

Niagara will travel to face top seed Monmouth, in West Long Branch, NJ, for the MAAC semifinals at 5 p.m. Nov. 1; the match will be televised on ESPN+. The Purple Eagles fell, 2-0, in their visit to Monmouth earlier this fall.

"I want to play it tomorrow," said an ecstatic Ibey immediately following Sunday's win.

*Read more women's soccer coverage, on D'Youville women's quarterfinal win Saturday.


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