Women's soccer advances past CNU into Sweet 16

Rachel Cooke celebrates a Lynchburg goal with her arm in the air.

Newport News, Va. -- They used up the theatrics the night before.

On Sunday, the Lynchburg College women's soccer team got the job done in regulation.

Caitlin Mertens (Succasunna, N.J.) and Rachel Cooke (Charlottesville, Va.) provided the goals, junior goalkeeper Delia LoSapio (Raleigh, N.C.) made eight saves, and Lynchburg rolled to a 2-1 NCAA Division III Tournament second-round victory over previously undefeated and No. 7-ranked Christopher Newport.

The two teams played a scoreless first half of soccer, with the host Captains entering the break with a 7-3 advantage in shots taken.

"They were definitely dominating and getting opportunities, but we just kept shutting it down," Cooke, a senior midfielder, said.

Though Lynchburg was out-shot, all three of the Hornet attempts were on goal and saved by the CNU defense. After intermission was a different story.

"We started to gain momentum," Cooke said. "We started winning the midfield."

The Captains didn't save any Hornet shots in the second half, either. In the 55th minute, Mertens beat a defender and launched a 25-yard, left-footed shot that skewered the defense and found nylon for a 1-0 Lynchburg lead.

The Hornets kept the pressure on for the next several minutes but failed to score again, and CNU had a chance with a corner kick on which the Captains couldn't capitalize.

Back on the other end, a 73rd-minute CNU foul set up Emily Maxwell's free kick into the box. The ball found Brooke Kowalski (Wayne, N.J.) at the top of the box. The junior played the ball back to Cooke, who chipped the eventual game-winner over the Captains' goalkeeper for a 2-0 Hornets advantage.

Christopher Newport broke up the shutout in the 84th minute when a handball in the box resulted in a penalty kick that Keiley McCarthy finished. But the Lynchburg defense held strong from that point, handing CNU its first loss of 2017 and sending the Hornets into the sectional weekend.

Sunday's victory pushes the Hornets into the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in program history and the first since LC won the NCAA Division III national title in 2014.

The road back to the national championship won't be an easy one, however. Lynchburg matches up with unbeaten and No. 1-ranked The College of New Jersey (20-0) at the Ewing, N.J. school in the Round of 16. A victory in that round would set up an Elite 8 matchup with the winner of No. 10 Messiah (16-2-3) and No. 13 MIT (20-1-1).


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