WEST POINT, N.Y. - The conditions were anything but favorable Saturday evening at Clinton Field, but neither the wind nor the heavy rain could deny the Army women's soccer team on Senior Night when they sent out five firsties with a 2-1 win over Holy Cross in the regular-season finale for both teams. Senior defender Christine O'Leary scoried the game winner in the second half, and classmate Brittany Fearnside recorded a career-high 10 saves in aiding the cause.
The Black Knights closed out the season 7-10-2 and 2-4-1 in the Patriot League, while the Crusaders, enjoying their finest season since 2000, finished 7-9-3, 1-5-1.
The Crusaders outshot Army in both halves, 13-6 in the first and 14-5 in the second, including an 11 to 4 shots on goal margin, but despite the shot differential, the Black Knights never trailed. Junior Candice Bryan, who had a hand in both goals, opened the scoring with a header from 10 yards that ripped the right side of the Crusaders net that was set up by sophomore Christine Kaila's free kick just seven minutes into the game. The goal was the second of the season for Bryan, who drew her eighth start, with Kaila recording her first assist.
Holy Cross tied the game 1-1 just before halftime when Shelby Stand, who leads the league in goals, notched her 10th of the season with as shot to the right corner of the Army net at 43:10. Just 40 seconds after scoring the equalizer, another Stand attempt was punched away by Fearnside, making her first start of the season and career third, who finished with five stops in the first half.
Heavy rain pelted the players throughout most of the first half, stopping just prior to halftime when a heavy fog rolled onto the field to give it an eerie look. The second half started out with monsoon-like conditions with heavy rain and high winds bringing in cold air, but the weather didn't faze either team.
The Crusaders took two of the first three shots on goal in the second half, but Army's second found its way into the net when O'Leary beat Crusade keeper Mary Ferketic one-on-one with a quick shot to the right corner of the net in the 67th minute. Freshman Paige Alexander gave O'Leary the lead pass after receiving the ball from Bryan. The goal was O'Leary's second of the season and first career game winner, while the helper was Bryan's career first and Alexander's second.
Five of Holy Cross' 14 shots in the second half were on goal with Fearnside making three of her five second-half saves over the final 20 minutes. Her last came in the 87th minute when Stand, who had a game-high 13 shots, drilled a hard shot at the Army keeper. After making the save, the ball slipped from her grasp in front of the goal, but a defender quickly booted it away and with it any chance Holy Cross had of notching the equalizer.
In addition to a 27-11 shot margin, Holy Cross also enjoyed a 5-1 corner kick advantage, with Army's lone corner coming in the 89th minute.
After the game, senior Caitlyn Gallagher, a recent ESPN/The Magazine District selection, was all smiles as she commented "it was an amazing win." Goalkeeper Fearnside felt "it was a fantastic experience. I started out as a goalie and it was great to end that way, and it was fun to have a nice game and get the win. It is definitely a memorable experience."
First-year coach Stefanie Golan was happy for the seniors. "They desired that win today. It has been a rough season, and they have hung in there. I am most proud of the steps they have taken to get out team culture to where it needs to be for the future. Without them, we would not be able to move forward like we are going to in the offseason."
Bryan, who had a big part in the seniors going out with a win, was happy for those five seniors but also noted that she was going to miss them a lot.
NOTES: The players made up the starting lineup for the game, and had two goalkeepers playing forward in Monica Lee and Alex Lostetter ... also drawing starting duty was Kaitlin Ellison, Caitlyn Gallagher, Brittany Fearnside, Elizabeth Betterbed, Christine O'Leary, Lindsay Gordon, Christine Kaila, Julia Stallard, Candice Bryan ... Army stretched its unbeaten string against Holy Cross to 14.