Friday, November 02, 2007

Anchorwomen upset thwarted by controversial call; lose 3-2 to West Conn

Despite the heavy odds stacked against them, the fourth-seeded Rhode Island College Anchorwomen came within three minutes of a stunning upset of the top-seeded Western Connecticut State University Colonials in the Little East Conference semifinals before a controversial call sent the match into double-overtime, where RIC heartbreakingly succumbed to the 3-2 loss.

From the opening whistle, the Colonials controlled early on, as the Anchorwomen backline was tested with two shots by the tenth minute. Though the potent striking duo of Catherine Nathans (13 goals) and Kim Crayco (11 goals) challenged the guests, the burgundy and gold backline duly kept them at bay for much of the match.

Just as RIC had found its rhythm, West Conn sparked up a counterattack in the 38th minute when Nathans sprinted through the backline and went one on one with keeper Maddie Pirri before the junior striker calmly chipped it in, giving the her side the 1-0 lead.

Undaunted, RIC pressed on by controlling the midfield at length, menacing West Conn with a frenzy of crisp passes. With only two substitutes at his disposal, RIC coach Denis Chartier judiciously spelled his playmakers as much as possible in order to keep the attack energized.

RIC kicked off the second half by dominating possession early on, and it paid dividends less than ten minutes later when Chelsea Creamer hauled in a Krista MacKinnon pass inside the box and deftly chipped it into the corner of the net, tying the score at one apiece.

With a severely depleted bench, an added sense of urgency prevailed among the RIC players in order to keep the match from turning into a multiple OT marathon that they were ill-equipped to endure. Their fervent attack found paydirt in the 74th minute when the speedy Calenda raced down the right and into the box, and angled a perfect shot that sailed into the upper realm of the net, giving the lower-seed a stunning one-goal lead with just over fifteen minutes left in regulation.

Cautiously sitting atop the one-goal lead, the Anchorwomen refocused on the defending, and though the Colonials broke through on two occasions, defender Kerry Donahue boldly snuffed any hopes the home side had at equalizing going into the 80th minute.

As the final minutes of regulation waned, WestConn inserted fresh substitutes in the form of Domonique Poscascio and Victoria Capoziello, attempting to crack the RIC backline. RIC, on the brink of a major upset, stepped up by solidifying its defense, as the Colonials were continually stonewalled despite creating quality chances.

Then, in the 87th minute, controversy ensued when a corner kick was fortuitously granted to West Conn after it appeared that, in a battle for the ball near the right corner flag, the ball had last touched a Colonial player before skipping past the byline. Despite vehement protests by the Anchorwomen, the decision stood, and seconds later, Caitlin Boyle headed the Cassie Barbaresi outswinger right into the heart of the net, drawing the match even at two-all, and sending the game into overtime minutes later.

An exhausted Anchorwomen side bravely fended off the Colonials during the first overtime, but with less than six minutes remaining in the second OT, the Colonials lined up for another corner. After the kick was played short to Jessica Sperlazza, she then pushed it forward to Kim Crayco, who slipped it past Pirri point blank for the game-winner in the 107th minute, as West Conn squeaked by to clinch its second consecutive LEC Finals appearance.

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