PENSACOLA, Fla. - A shaky first half and two early goals by No. 10-ranked College of St. Rose doomed the No. 7-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State University Pirates to a 2-0 defeat in the NCAA Division II Women's Soccer Final Four on Thursday afternoon at Ashton Brosnaham Park in Pensacola, Fla.
The loss ends the Pirates' season at 18-3-3, while St. Rose improves to 23-1-1, winning its first semifinal match in four tries and advancing to the NCAA Championship match on Saturday against Grand Valley State. GVSU advanced on PKs, 3-2, after drawing 1-1 with Cal State Chico in the other semifinal.
St. Rose struck first in the contest in the seventh minute as Carmelina Puopolo's corner kick bent directly into the goal on the near post to put the Golden Knights up, 1-0.
The Golden Knights kept the pressure on, forcing a clearance off the line by Courtney Cawley in the 14th minute, then breaking through for an all-important second goal in the 31st minute on Gianna D'Errico's goal off of a through ball from Brittany Barry.
Armstrong dodged another bullet late in the first half as a handball in the box resulted in a penalty kick for St. Rose's Christina Cuffari in the 45th minute, but Cuffari's shot was wide.
St. Rose outshot the Pirates, 8-4, in the first half and owned all four corner kicks before intermission.
The Pirates answered the bell in the second half, getting the first two shots after intermission, including Andye Dawson's rocket from the left side that was saved by St. Rose keeper Jessica Gerski.
Gerski made another save on Kristina Pascutti's shot in the 62nd minute, then she turned away another shot by Pascutti in the 80th minute. But Gerski's four saves in the second half kept Armstrong scoreless and sent St. Rose to the championship match.
"It was a tale of two halves," Armstrong head coach Eric Faulconer said. "In the first half, we were a little jittery, being our first time here. We settled down in the second half and I thought we had the run of play. But all credit to St. Rose, their experience paid off for them.
"I told our kids not to let one game define the season. We started this program in 2005 and to get here in only seven years is a tremendous accompllishment. I'm very proud of our kids for all they have done this season."
Armstrong outshot the Golden Knights, 9-7, in the second half as St. Rose finished the match with a 15-13 edge overall in shots. Gerski made five saves in net total for St. Rose while Maggie Carson tallied three saves in net for the Pirates.
Pascutti led the Pirates with five shots, including three on goal, while Emily Cattanach added two shots and Morgan Mitchell had one. Cuffari led the Golden Knights with six shots, including two on goal.
St. Rose enjoyed a 10-3 edge in corner kicks and the Golden Knights were whistled for six fouls, compared to four for the Pirates. St. Rose was offsides twice.