Women’s Soccer Advances to Round of 32 by Way of PKs

The Capital Crusaders defeated Gettysburg College in penalty kicks in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (photo credit: Messiah College Athletics)
The Capital Crusaders defeated Gettysburg College in penalty kicks in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (photo credit: Messiah College Athletics)
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GRANTHAM, Pa. – Patience was rewarded for the Capital University women's soccer team. The Crusaders defeated the Gettysburg College Bullets in penalty kicks, 5-4, in the first round of the NCAA Division III Women's Soccer Tournament. Capital advances to the Round of 32 and will play No. 2 Messiah College on its home field, Sunday at 5 p.m.

Following a scoreless 110 minutes, the match went to penalty kicks and took a total of 12 strikers to find a winner. In the end, Maura Fortino (Philadelphia, Pa.) ended it on the final attempt of the sixth round of PKs to seal the win for Capital, just miles outside of her hometown.

Gettysburg led the session off and Lauren Schapiro helped the Bullets take an early 1-0 lead by beating Kim Leitch down the middle. Junior Emily Krause (Macedonia, Ohio) responded and went to the lower left corner of the cage to tie it up.

The Bullets' next two strikers froze Leitch with their approach and each scored. Kaitlyn Semelsberger (Akron, Ohio) buried her attempt as Capital's second player sent in, but sophomore Jackie Kelly's attempt was stopped by Gettysburg keeper Eliza Gray. The Bullets took advantage of the opportunity and took a 4-2 lead when Gettysburg's Georgia Ferguson converted her try.

Facing pressure to keep pace with the Bullets, freshman Shelby Johnson (Brentwood, Calif.) went lower left corner on Parker and scored to make the deficit just one.

Leitch responded in a big way, timing Meg Castranova's shot perfectly while diving to her right to smother the shot. With momentum shifting to Capital's side, sophomore Monique Hanayik (Sidney, Ohio) made the Bullets pay, tying it at four.

With the penalty kick session tied 4-4, it then moved to a sudden death format. Capital received its biggest break when Cailin DiGiacomo skied her shot well above the crossbar.

Now facing a make-it-to-win-it scenario, Fortino stepped up and buried her attempt to the bottom left corner to give Capital the win.

"As we are growing the culture of this program, finding a way to win even though it was not a great game for us was very exciting," said head coach Chris Kouns. "I think that we struggled a little bit with our young players perhaps feeling a little overwhelmed with the environment and maybe some of our older players trying to play too far out of our comfort zone to make up for that. But we won, and we move on."

It was Leitch's play at key moments of the match which kept the game scoreless. Gettysburg kept pressure on Capital's defense and generated six shot attempts in the second half. Two of those came in succession near the end of the 67th minute. After penetrating deep into Capital territory each attack drew within the 18 for their shots, but Letich sprawled out and made a pair of stops that prevented goals and kept the game scoreless. She finished with five saves through 110 minutes of action.

Gettysburg outshot Capital, 13-9, though the Crusaders tested their opposing keeper more often. They put more shots on frame than the Bullets, 7-5.

Gettysburg (13-5-1) entered the tournament as an at-large bid recipient and fell out of the national rankings by losing in its conference tournament.

The Crusaders' challenge reaches a new height as they will advance to the Round of the 32 and play No. 2 Messiah on its home pitch on Sunday. Game time is set for 5 p.m.

The win marks the third time in the last four years that the Crusaders have advanced to the second round of the national tournament.

Ranked opponents are nothing new to the Crusaders. Last year, Capital had to defeat three programs inside the top 25 on its way to the Final Four last year. They defeated the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (1-0), Thomas More College (2-1), and then-No. 1 Washington University in penalty kicks for the right to take eventual national champion William Smith College to the brink.

Kouns said of the challenge, "As we develop into a program, if we want to get to a top level, those are the teams we have to compete with."

Messiah defeated Brooklyn College 5-0 to advance to the Round of 32. The Falcons scored four times in the first half to propel to victory. Erin Sollenbegrer scored two of those goals.

The Falcons had their seven-year run of Commonwealth Conference championships come to an end after being beaten in penalty kicks in the finals of their conference tournament. Prior to the loss, they were ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Live statistics and video will be provided by Messiah. (link)