POSTGAME INTERVIEWS – The College of Staten Island women’s soccer squad punched their ticket to their fifth-straight CUNYAC Championship Final, storming past the No. 3 seed Lehman College, 5-0, as part of semifinal play this evening at Brooklyn College. CSI scored twice in the opening 10 minutes to break open the game early, cruising to the lop-sided win. They will face top-seeded Brooklyn College in the Final on Saturday at 2pm. BC won their semifinal over City College of New York, 1-0, in overtime.
“I feel very confident with this team,” said CSI head coach John Guagliardo. “We lost (Samantha) Wysokowski earlier in the year, we lost freshman Kaitlyn Russo, but we have something we have to pay back from last year.”
The Dolphins dominated play early in the first half. After posting the first shot on goal on a harmless deep angle shot from the right side, they continued pressuring the Lightning and got on the board five minutes in with a nifty goal by Danielle Smith. The junior received a perfect cross from Danielle Alexandrini and was left wide open in front of the net. The easy tap in goal gave the Dolphins a 1-0 lead.
Senior Melissa Gelardi doubled the Dolphins lead in the 8th minute. On a free kick, Gelardi rocketed one that was perfectly placed in the top of the net, just above a leaping Stephanie Gonzalez, who got her fingertips on the ball but was unable to keep the ball out.
The Dolphins nearly extended their lead again off another right side shot by Danielle Smith, but Gonzalez fully extended to make a diving save and keep the Lightning’s deficit at two. Lehman’s attempts to cut the lead in half were negated by a trio of off-sides calls. The offense couldn’t seem to get going and repeatedly got pinned in their own defensive end.
Staten Island kept the pressure on in the 23rd minute. Gelardi skied another free kick toward the net, but a diving Gonzalez was able to make a big save on a shot that might have otherwise been ticketed for the upper left corner of the net. Despite being heavily defended near the top of the box, Gabriela Romero was able to turn and launch a shot towards the goal in the 24th minute, however it sailed just over the net. Romero and Jennifer Cosenza negotiated a give-and-go play in the 33rd minute that saw Romero fairly open near the top of the box, but her shot was shanked wide left and the play failed to result in the crucial third goal.
With six minutes remaining, Gelardi once again showed her prowess off the free kick by booming a shot on net that was nearly identical to her goal earlier in the half. Gonzalez barely got a hand on the shot, but it wasn’t enough to deflect the ball away from trouble. Deanna Kvetkoff was able to race in and tap the goalkeeper’s deflection into the back of the net to extend the Staten Island lead to 3-0. The Dolphins were able to successfully thwart Lehman’s two biggest threats in Lillian Barreto and Juliana Generoso through the first 45 minutes and went into the second half leading 3-0.
The Lightning came out in the second half and caught the Dolphins flat-footed, getting a quality scoring chance merely 30 seconds in. A crossing pass was placed right in the goal mouth and Daisy Narvaez was presented with an opportunity to score, but her shot deflected over the net. Things quieted down after that play for a few minutes. Gelardi had another free kick in the 51st minute, but it was from much further out than her previous three and the harmless shot was stopped easily by Stephanie Gonzalez.
With 38 minutes remaining, Gabriela Romero streaked through the middle and threaded a pass over to freshman Stephanie Rivera, but her attempt grazed the crossbar and deflected over the net. Less than a minute later, an area of clutter at the top of the box produced another shot by Rivera. This time, the Brooklyn native hit her mark as she put it in the upper left corner to make the Staten Island lead 4-0. Gelardi did not register an assist on the play but it was her blocked shot that deflected to Rivera to get CSI another tally.
Lehman had an opportunity in the 56th minute to chip away at the deficit on a Samantha Dias free kick, but the shot was directed right towards Victoria Donegan. On the ensuing play, Gelardi streaked down the right wing and blasted a shot off the inside of the crossbar and into the net. Her second goal of the game made the score 5-0 Dolphins.
The final 20 minutes of the game yielded very little in terms of offensive chances and action. The only question remaining was whether CSI could preserve Donegan’s shutout. Stout defensive play and controlling the ball in Lehman’s zone allowed the Dolphins to do just that, as they ultimately secured their 5-0 win.
For the game, Staten Island tallied 31 shots and 14 on goal while the Lightning managed only 13 shots and 8 on goal.
CSI extended to 4-0 all-time against Lehman and 5-0 all-time in CUNYAC Semifinal games. The Dolphins will go into the Final on Saturday sporting an all-time 5-3-1 Finals record, although the team has gone 0-3-1 in their last four Finals appearances (CSI won the 2011 championship on penlty kicks following a tie). During the regular season, CSI and Brooklyn played to a scoreless tie at Brooklyn. Both teams finished with identical 5-0-1 records inside the conference, but BC won the seeding tiebreak due to a better record against common out-of-conference opponents.