Courtesy of Scranton Sports Information
SCRANTON, Pa. - Tightly contested playoff matches often come down to one play, and it was The University of Scranton women's soccer team that made the biggest play of all on Wednesday night.
Sophomore forward Gianna Vitolo threaded a perfect pass through the Moravian defense to set up freshman midfielder Kelly Egan for the game's oinly goal in the seventh minute as the Royals defeated the Greyhounds, 1-0, in a Landmark Conference semifinal at Fitzpatrick Field.
The victory advances the top-seeded Royals (15-2-2) to the championship on Saturday against Drew at 1 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Field. The third-seeded Rangers knocked off second-seeded Juniata, 3-2, in double overtime earlier on Wednesday. The Royals have won three straight Landmark Conference championships and four in the conference's six years of existence.
Scranton scored its goal when Vitolo picked up a loose ball near midfield and looked right, then picked out a hole in the Moravian defense to find Egan streaking down the left side. Egan gathered in the pass and dribbled toward goal and beat the Greyhounds goalkeeper from 15 yards out.
The goal was Egan's second of the season while Vitolo picked up her fourth assisted, tied for second most on the team behind Egan's nine.
Senior goalkeeper Kelsy McAnelly made three saves, all in the second half as the fourth-seeded Greyhounds (7-10-3) pushed forward in search of the match-tying goal. The shutout was her sixth of the season and 29th of her career, second most in Scranton history.
Both teams narrowly missed scoring in the second half. Moravian had the first great chance, but the shot by sophomore midfielder Micaela Kwochka (Monroe, Conn./Academy of Our Lady of Mercy Lauralton Hall) clanged off the right post and trickled away in the 55th minute.
Later in the 78th minute, Royals freshman forward Kelsey Bacon gathered in a pass about 18 yards in front of the goal, but her shot clipped the crossbar and sailed over.
The Royals also got a measure of revenge after the Greyhounds had rallied for a 2-2 tie in the regular season match on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Fitzpatrick Field. Moravian's two goals that night came in the second half after Scranton had taken a 2-0 lead, and the goals also ended a streak of 13 straight matches against Landmark opponents without allowing a goal for Scranton.
The victory also marked the fourth straight season the Royals have eliminated Moravian in the Landmark Conference playoffs. Scranton defeated the Greyhounds in the semifinals in 2010 and 2011, and in the championship match in 2012.
Saturday's Landmark Conference championship match will be the fourth straight played at Fitzpatrick Field. The Royals captured the title in 2010 with a 2-1 victory over Drew, in 2011 with a 1-0 victory over Catholic, and last season with a 2-0 victory over Moravian.