Following a one-year hiatus, William Smith College returned to the top of the Liberty League today. The Herons got a first-half goal from Julia Berg and a sterling effort from its defense for a 1-0 victory over Rochester Institute of Technology in the championship game of the 2023 Liberty League Women’s Soccer Tournament.
The Herons, who did not allow a goal on the way to their 19th conference championship, were led by the play of junior back Marissa Mastracco, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. William Smith’s full-team defensive effort limited its two opponents in the tournament to just six shots on goal in 180 minutes.
The Herons had won 14 consecutive Liberty League Championships, before falling in penalty kicks last season. This year’s title gives William Smith the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Herons will be making their NCAA Division III women’s soccer record 33rd appearance in the national championship chase.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- William Smith carried the momentum early. Ava Brazie got a quality chance from the top of the box in the fourth minute, but goalie Emily Sanchez made the save.
- About 10 minutes into the match, RIT began to carry the play. The Tigers fired off six shots in a span of five minutes, but none were on target.
- RIT got its first shot on frame in the 26th minute when Elena Onodera intercepted a Heron pass in their defensive third. She got about 6-yards off the end line from the far right and sent a shot that senior Kirsten Nelson collected for the first of her two saves.
- The Herons broke through RIT defense in the 35th minute. Graduate student forward Julia DiMenna sent a cross from deep in the left corner to the top of the box. Graduate student midfielder Julia Berg took two touches at the 16 and unleashed a left foot shot that beat Sanchez inside the right post.
- Shots were even at seven apiece in the first half, but William Smith took the all-important lead into the break.
- The Herons had their best opportunity to add to the lead in the 71st when sophomore forward Julia Bragg played a through ball to senior forward Moira van der Putt, but Sanchez (6 svs) made a diving stop to keep it a one-goal game.
FOR THE RECORD
- RIT falls to 8-5-5 on the season.
- William Smith remains unbeaten, improving to 13-0-4.
- William Smith improved to 12-0-3 this season when scoring first.
- The Herons recorded their 11th shutout of the season. It was their 10th consecutive clean sheet.
- The 64-team NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship field will be revealed during a selection show on NCAA.com beginning at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6. The Herons are in as one of 42 automatic qualifiers. The semifinal and championship matches are scheduled to be played at Roanoke College’s Kerr Stadium in Salem, Virginia, Nov. 30 and Dec. 2.