EASTON, Pa. – The Navy women’s soccer team received a career-best performance from goalkeeper Mattie Gallagher (Jr., Gilbertsville, Pa.) on Wednesday night at Lafayette to clinch the program’s 12th straight Patriot League Tournament appearance.
In the regular season finale versus the Leopards (3-11-3, 1-6-2 PL) in the sixth position for the upcoming league tournament, the Mids (8-7-3, 4-5 PL) controlled their destiny. They ensured they’d extend their season as Mimi Abusham (Fr., Los Alamitos, Calif.) scored the go-ahead goal in the 62nd minute. At the same time, Gallagher continued to stonewall the hosts with a career-high ten saves.
Courtesy of Navy’s 1-0 victory at Oaks Stadium and a 2-1 win by American over Loyola, the Mids were able to secure the fifth seed in the tournament that begins on Sunday afternoon.
“What a tough game,” remarked head coach Carin Gabarra. “With everything on the line, we had to fight all 90 minutes versus a very determined Lafayette squad on their home field. Mattie was outstanding tonight, making ten saves. She has kept us in many games this season; you wonder where we’d be without her. She’s been tested all year and continued to make save-after-save. She got us through a few rough spots in the first half and allowed us to hit our stride after halftime. We flipped the script in the second half and asserted our style of play. I’m very proud of our commitment; we stayed with it and continued to battle; we left it all on the field.”
The Leopards were active early and often, with seven shots in the initial 20 minutes of the game. Gallagher played a key role in keeping Lafayette off the scoreboard as she made four saves during that opening run of play. After denying Lauren Cunningham in the third minute, her second stop required quick reflexes as Haley Pursel flicked a shot from seven yards out, while her third was a leaping grab of an April McDonald attempt. The final of four stops was a long, bounding shot by Sara Oswald in the 18th minute.
Heading deeper into the first half and still being outshot by a 7-2 margin, Navy made some in-roads in Lafayette’s defensive third. Isabella Romano (Fr., Syosset, N.Y.) registered the Mids’ first shot since 14:09 as she ripped a shot toward the near post that forced the Leopards’ Natalie Neumann to dive to her right in the 39th minute. Off the ensuing corner kick by Kat Healey (Jr., King George, Va.), Katie Herrmann (Jr., Charlotte, N.C.) met the cross and headed the ball on goal though Neumann made the save.
Gallagher’s reflexes were tested once again before halftime as a back-to-back series of shots over four seconds by Melissa Lamanna, and Sara Oswald saw the junior goalkeeper make a kick save followed by a two-handed deflection in the 40th minute.
After making six saves in the first half, Gallagher was called upon again early in the second stanza as she made a point-blank save on a McDonald one-timer in the 53rd minute.
Energized by their goalkeeper’s outstanding play, the Mids’ offense finally got clicking. Over the next nine minutes after Gallagher’s latest stop, Navy registered three shots. The Mids’ persistence paid off as that third attempt found the back of the net. After a failed clearance of a corner kick by the Leopards, Abusham gathered the bouncing ball and lofted a soft, floating shot into the upper 90 for her second goal of the season at 61:26.
“Mimi is a very talented goal scorer,” said Gabarra. “She has a great touch and is always a threat to score. That was a well-placed goal tonight.”
The Navy’s goal came just minutes after Colgate pushed ahead of Holy Cross by a 2-1. For playoff purposes, the Mids needed to win should either the Raiders or Crusaders secure a result, as they came into Wednesday’s slate with just a one-point advantage over Colgate and a two-point lead on Holy Cross.
In control with a 1-0 lead, Gallagher ensured that the one-goal edge would stand up for the final 28 minutes of action at Oaks Stadium. In the 70th minute, she dove to defend the lower right post from an Emily Coe shot before denying McDonald twice in the final at 3:11.
For the game, Lafayette outshot Navy 15-9 and had a 10-8 advantage in shots on goal. The host Leopards also recorded two more corner kicks than the Mids, 4-2. Gallagher’s ten saves surpassed her previous career-high of nine at Colgate on Oct. 2, 2021.
Minutes after the game in Easton went final, the Colgate-Holy Cross contest concluded with a 4-1 score in favor of the Raiders, while the Loyola-American matchup went to the Eagles by a 2-1 margin. As a result of those three games, the Navy finished the regular season in fifth place with 12 points (4-5 PL), one ahead of Loyola (3-4-2 PL). Colgate also posted a 3-4-2 record in league play but lost out on a playoff berth due to a head-to-head tie-breaker.
As the fifth seed, the Navy will head to No. 4 Lehigh on Sunday in the 2022 Patriot League Tournament quarterfinals. Kickoff between the Mids and Mountain Hawks is set for 2 p.m. in Bethlehem, Pa.
“We hope to replicate this effort and performance moving forward,” said Gabarra in closing. “We have a tough road matchup ahead with Lehigh. The pressure always ratchets up in the postseason, especially on the road. The work continues with training tomorrow. We’ve begun a brand new season.”
2022 Patriot League Women’s Soccer Championship Field
- No. 1 – Army West Point (6-1-2 PL)
- No. 2 – Bucknell (5-1-3 PL)
- No. 3 – Boston University (6-3 PL)
- No. 4 – Lehigh (5-2-2 PL)
- No. 5 – Navy (4-5 PL)
- No. 6 – Loyola Maryland (3-4-2 PL)
2022 Patriot League Women’s Soccer Championship Schedule
Quarterfinals – Sunday, Oct. 30
- No. 6 Loyola Maryland at No. 3 Boston University, 1 p.m., ESPN+
- No. 5 Navy at No. 4 Lehigh, 2 p.m., ESPN+
Semifinals – Thursday, Nov. 3
- Lowest-remaining seed at No. 1 Army West Point, 6 p.m., ESPN+
- Highest-remaining seed at No. 2 Bucknell, 7 p.m., ESPN+
Championship Game – Sunday, Nov. 6
- Lowest-remaining seed at Highest-remaining seed, 2 p.m. CBSSN