For the first time in program history, the Lady Hawks are SUNYAC Champions.
In a 1-0 contest, the New Paltz Women’s Soccer team defeated the No.1 seeded SUNY Cortland in the tournament final on Nov. 5, securing not only a SUNYAC Championship title, but a berth into the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship tournament.
“It was of course unbelievable,” Head Coach Colleen Bruley said. “I just bent over and started crying. [The team] jumped on each other in the middle of the fiel. It was incredible. I was in a daze about the whole thing all day. It was surreal.”
Third-year forward Shelby Kondelka scored the only goal in the 22nd minute of the game, coming off a blocked shot that fourth-year Alexa Balestrieri had rebounded off the crossbar. With the win, the Hawks snapped Cortland’s 10-game winning streak and third-year goal keeper Stephanie Vega extended her New Paltz single-season shutout record to 12.
“You could feel the tension,” Vega said. “It was for the SUNYAC finals, so it was kind of like ‘do-or-die’ for us.”
On Friday, Sept. 23 New Paltz squared off against the Red Dragons in a rain-soaked contest, defeating them by a 2-0 margin. Over the course of the season, the Hawks were the only team in the conference to have beaten Cortland, which led to a “pretty intense” game this time around, Vega said.
“They came out looking for revenge,” Vega said. “In the second half they came out full-throttle, they were ready to get back at us and we just held them. We played really well.”
With the title win, Bruley also secured her 100th career win, becoming the first coach in the history of the program to reach the mark. Although, during the second half Bruley said she wasn’t sure the Hawks 1-0 lead would be enough to secure that record.
Cortland had nine shot attempts in the second half, including four in the final 11:01 minutes of play. Overall, the Red Dragons out shot New Paltz 20 to 10 over the course of the game.
“They pressed us hard in the second half,” Bruley said. “But our back four were playing so well it was difficult to get any great shots off, but it was very nerve wracking from the moment we scored. We just had to hold on.”
With the win, the Hawks secured an automatic berth into the 2011 NCAA Div. III Women’s Soccer Championship Tournament beginning on Nov. 11.
With the conclusion of the SUNYAC fall season, Bruley was named Coach of the Year. In her 15-year tenure with the Hawks, this is her second time earning Coach of the Year accolades; The first time was in 2004.
The Hawks placed five individuals on All-SUNYAC teams, as announced on Nov. 8. Kondelka and fourth-year defender and Captain Shannon Cobb were named to the First Team. Vega and third-year midfielders Beth Bowling and Emily Rokitowski were lauded with Second Team honors.
The Hawks will head to Lynchburg, Va. for the first round of the tournament, taking on No.11 seeded Lynchburg College. Lynchburg finished their season with a 19-2-1 record and earned a berth into the NCAA tournament after winning the top seed in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
The Hawks will play Lynchburg on Nov. 12 and a Livestream of the game will be offered via NPHawks.com.
Bruley said the Hawks are currently in the process of getting a scouting report for Lynchburg and will use it to learn more about their upcoming opponent.
“Lynchburg has no idea who we are——we are the underdogs and we like that,” Bruley said “We have nothing to lose…I know we will be up for it mentally and it will be quite the test.”