By University of Rochester Sports Information
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Jess Babice set up one goal and scored another as Rowan University defeated Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 3-0, in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Playoffs at Edwin Fauver Stadium.
The Profs improved to 16-2-1. Rowan will play Rochester (13-3-3), a 4-0 winner over Westfield State University, in Sunday’s second round match at 6 pm. The winner advances to the Sweet 16 next weekend at a site to be determined.
Veronia Rhea scored on a penalty kick for Rowan and Nina Fragoso turned home a Babice pass three minutes later as the Profs broke open a 0-0 game. Babice scored on a breakaway midway through the second half to complete the scoring.
“I don’t think we were at the top of our game tonight,” said Rowan coach Scott Leacott. “We lost in the semifinals of our conference tournament and have been idle for 10 days. At times, we played great. But this was not our best effort.”
Rowan took charge early. MIT goalkeeper Meghan Wright turned back good shots in the first eight minutes – and before the match was 14 minutes old, the Profs hit the woodwork twice. Babice lined one off the post in the eighth minute and Evynn Wright hit the crossbar after a corner kick by Rhea in the 13th minute.
“Our goalkeeper kept us in it tonight (early) and we settled down,” said MIT coach Martin Desmarais. The Engineers were playing in their first NCAA tournament after winning the NEWMAC title, but there were no nerves on display.
“We’ve been playing big games for two weeks now,” Desmarais said. “We came up strong in each of those games.”
With the game scoreless and MIT finding its footing, the Engineers were denied an early lead by the woodwork. Katie Pesce let one fly from 25 yards out that Sarah Volkomer turned against the crossbar for a corner kick.
“They’re good,” said Leacott. “They work the ball around. They settled in nicely.”
Shortly after that, the Engineers were whistled for a foul in the box and Rhea converted the penalty kick (27:42). Three minutes later, Babice’s pass found Fragoso who tucked it home for a 2-0 lead at 30:53.
“I thought we played great for the first 15-20 minutes. We kept the ball on the ground,” Leacott said. “We’ve jumped out on teams before and we seem to let up a little bit.”
Both coaches talked about keeping focus in the second half. Leacott urged the Profs to raise the level of their game. Desmarais wanted MIT to concentrate on getting that first goal.
A minute after the restart, Alisha Lussiez got free in the box but shot the ball over the crossbar. “Any time you’re down more than one goal, you focus on that next goal,” Desmarais said. “(Lussiez) is one of our best finishers. We get that back and it changes momentum.”
Babice tacked on the crucial third goal at 61:25. Ashley Schaffer played a long ball over the top. Babice sprinted onto it ahead of the MIT backs and ran in alone to slot the ball into the lower left hand corner. She was denied a second breakaway goal in the 79th minute. She tried to go around Wright but the goalkeeper deflected the dribble and Claire DeRosa came over to clear the ball.