by Paige Mullin
After an historic and record-breaking season, the William Smith soccer team put the finishing touch on its national championship run by shutting out the nation’s top scoring offense, Trinity (Texas) University, 2-0 at Toyota Field in San Antonio.
William Smith capped its historic season with a 23-1-0 overall record. The Herons posted program records for wins in a season and shutouts in a season with 21. William Smith did not allow a single goal in all six NCAA tournament victories, and allowed just six goals all season. The Herons earned 23 straight victories and 16 straight shutouts. William Smith’s shutout streak which began back on Sept. 28, spanned 1,472 minutes and seven seconds, another school record.
It was the second NCAA Championship for the Heron Soccer program and the 480th career win for William Smith Head Coach Aliceann Wilber, the winningest coach in Division III women’s soccer. Under Wilber’s leadership, the 1988 Herons defeated UC San Diego 1-0 in triple overtime to win the national title back on Nov. 13, 1988.
This time around, William Smith topped Capital 1-0 in its national semifinal match on Friday, Dec. 6, notching the game-winning goal just 6:52 into the match. In the national championship, Madeline Buckley ’15 scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the 11th minute.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to be national champions,” says Buckley. “To be able to cap our season this way and with a team that has a lot of heart brings unreal emotions.”
Krista Longo ’15 added an insurance goal in the second half. Goalkeeper Chelsea Dunay ’14 made a season-high nine saves to secure her William Smith season record 18th shutout this year.
Dunay, who earned a spot on the NCAA All- Tournament team, also holds the Heron season record with 23 victories in goal this year. Defender Olivia Zitoli ’14, forward Kara Shue ’17, midfielder Zoe Eth ’16, and Longo joined Dunay on the NCAA Championship All- Tournament Team. Zitoli was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player and Longo was selected the Most Outstanding Offensive Player.
“This is what we have been working for all season. It’s the greatest feeling ever,” says Dunay. “It just goes to show that every single day of practice and every single day in the offseason and every day in the summer, all that hard work we put in – it pays off. The dynamics of this team were just incredible. It goes to show that if you have fight and if you have heart you can go far.”
The Herons gave second-ranked Trinity its first loss this season. William Smith held the Tigers, who entered the championship with the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense, scoreless for the first time since 2011.
Just 10:22 into the match Buckley gave William Smith a 1-0 advantage. Shue pushed a pass from the left side of the box to find Buckley streaking down the middle. With the Trinity keeper charging out to meet her, Buckley fired home her shot from right out in front into the left side of the goal. It was Buckley’s team-leading 10th goal this season, and Shue’s team-high 11th assist.
Trinity’s best scoring chance of the first half came 17:42 before the break, when the Tigers earned a corner kick. The ball was lofted into the box by Kirby Peddicord. Kelsey Falcone received it about six yards out right in front of the goal, but blasted her shot just over the crossbar.
Longo put the Herons up 2-0 in the 52nd minute. She settled the ball in the box, beat a defender and drilled a shot on goal. It banged off the underside of the crossbar and fell over the goal line. Buckley was there to ensure it was a goal, sending the ball into the back of the net, but it turned out to not be necessary, as Longo was credited with the unassisted tally. It was her second goal in as many days, as she chipped in the game winner in William Smith’s national semifinal victory. It was Longo’s eighth goal this season.
Trinity had another chance to get on the scoreboard with just under 24 minutes left in the game. The Tigers launched a free kick deep into the box and through a crowd in front of the goal, but Dunay made the vertical leap to get her hands on the ball and deny the Tigers’ scoring chance.
Minutes later the Herons almost took a 3-0 lead. Longo broke through the Trinity defense for a one-onone with the Tigers’ keeper Devan Osegueda. Osegueda came rushing out of the goal to just barely beat Longo to the ball and knock it over the right sideline. Osegueda finished with four saves.
The Heron defense continued to dominate in the national championship match as it has done so many times this season. William Smith blocked nine shots in the match. The Tigers finished with a 24-12 advantage in shots. Each team earned three corners.
William Smith’s three seniors, Zitoli, Dunay and Kim Knefel ’14, capped their Heron careers in the best possible fashion. In their four years on the team, William Smith notched a 75-7-8 overall record (.878). No group of Heron soccer seniors have graduated with more wins, fewer losses or a higher win percentage. In NCAA Division III tournament play, the seniors were 15-2-1, advancing to the championship round three times and earning a national championship.