The College of Staten Island women’s soccer team’s run in the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament fell short after a single day, but the Dolphins made a little history in what was a 4-1 loss to No. 11 Johns Hopkins University in opening round play at the JHU campus in Baltimore, MD.  The Dolphins finalize their season at 13-6-2, while JHU will go on to host a second round game tomorrow, lifting their record to 16-2-3.

Out-shot by a wide margin the CUNYAC representation at the NCAA Tournament has had a difficult road through the years, never having scored a goal on the national stage, until today.  Lauren Smith’s goal in the 68th minute for the Dolphins was CSI’s and the conference’s first-ever goal at the NCAA Tournament level, and it was the first of the season allowed by JHU keeper Robyn Lipschultz.  It resulted in a 1-1 tie past halftime, after JHU had built up a 3-0 lead.

“I am very proud of our performance,” said Head Coach Giuseppe Pennetti.  “Their never-say-die attitude was easily seen today.  As the game wore on we started to feel more comfortable and by the end of the match we felt we were playing on the same level they were.”

Before CSI’s bite of history, the game belonged in many ways to the Blue Jays, who broke up an early possessional stalemate by shifting play and getting a handful of quality chances in front of CSI starting keeper Kaila DiBenedetto.  Despite the absence of dynamic freshman Riley O’Toole, JHU got a chance when Bailey Monaco set one over the bat in the eighth minute.  Four minutes later, a JHU corner resulted in a failed chance in the goalmouth.

In the 13th minute, after a Michelle Santangelo header resulted wide, a CSI turnover in the midfield send Monaco on a stretch down the sideline, and a cross found the boot of Jackie Tait who punched one in at 13:56 to give the home Jays a 1-0 lead.

With JHU pressuring, the Jays earned a corner off of a DiBenedetto save, and at 17:18, JHU made it 2-0 when Emily Maheras headed the Hallie Horvath set piece directly in the middle of goal.

CSI attempted to rush up the field, but a taut JHU defense turned the field quickly, and at 29:03, Santangelo added a goal, her 16th of the year, converging on a loose ball from just outside the box and running in from the right side to push another past DiBenedetto.

From there, JHU sent a wave of players into the game, and protected the lead efficiently, cruising into halftime with a 3-0 lead and a 17-0 lead in shots.

The 15-minute respite, however, served the Dolphins well.  Multi-positional changes served JHU first.  Six minutes into the second stanza Santangelo registered again, converting on a turnover to lace a shot into the top right against CSI reserve keeper Maraya Jones.

Play tempered from there and the quality opportunities were limited, but CSi would ultimately turn the tables, using a handful of spirited runs up the field to earn chances.  CSI defender Rebecca D’Aloia moved up to the front of the attack and laced a shot that hit the post.  On the follow-up, however, Lauren Smith was there to clean it up, putting in a shot against Lipschultz.

Eight substitutions for JHU followed the goal and CSI followed suit by sustaining pressure.  A shot by freshman Daniela Zirpolo was parried by Lipschultz in the 80th minute, and 30 seconds later, D’Aloia screamed a shot high after a long run, shedding two defenders.  

Ultimately, the stalemate ensued and the game ended 4-1.  JHU finalized with a 29-4 edge in shots (15-2 on goal).  DiBenedetto and Jones combined for 11 saves for CSI, as JHU enjoyed a 6-0 edge in corners.

For CSI, the premature departure in the NCAA’s comes with the silver lining of a team budding with underclassmen talent and a third-straight CUNYAC Championship and NCAA appearance.

“This was a highlight of our season, and to achieve something that has never been done before gives us something to build on for the future,” Pennetti said.