The Central Connecticut women's soccer team defeated Fairleigh Dickinson 2-0 on Sunday afternoon at University Stadium in Teaneck, NJ to capture its eighth Northeast Conference Championship in program history. The Blue Devils are now 11-5-4 on the season and move on to compete in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Women's College Cup.
The third seed Blue Devils topped the first seed Knights at their home field on a beautiful fall day in Teaneck, NJ. The two teams started off slow as neither team could generate a legitimate scoring chance in the first 20 minutes of play. CCSU had the first real opportunity in the 25th minute when senior forward Tori Sousa fired a promising shot on target, but the Fairleigh Dickinson goalkeeper, Felicia Burr, snagged it to deny Sousa her third goal of the tournament.
Then, less than 10 minutes later, junior midfielder Charlie Branch broke through for the Blue Devils at the 32:45 mark. Sophomore Kelly Halligan took the second corner kick of the match for CCSU and FDU was unable to fully clear the ball out of the 18-yard box. Branch ran in and kicked the bouncing ball, on a volley, over the keeper and into the top left corner of the net to give the Blue Devils a 1-0 advantage heading into the break.
The goal was the second of the season for Branch.
The Blue Devil defense played extremely well in the first half as they did not allow an FDU shot on goal and limited the Knights to only two shots. CCSU also held a slight 2-1 advantage in corner kicks at the half.
Following the intermission, the Knights were the team this time to have the first scoring chance, looking to even the score. FDU's Rachel Hoekstra was all alone inside the Blue Devil 18-yard box, but her attempt on goal sailed wide left.
Central responded to the threat quickly as junior Cailynn Harding added to the Blue Devil lead and made it 2-0 on an amazing strike from 30 yards out. Another failed clearing attempt by FDU led to a bouncing ball with no player near it, about 30 yards from the FDU goal. Harding charged up the field and struck a perfect ball, on the volley, that looked like it was going to sail high at first, but then dove down and hit the bottom of the cross-bar over the leaping FDU keeper and into the net.
The goal was also the second marker of the season for Harding.
The CCSU defense stayed strong and denied a couple of late chances by the Knights to preserve the victory and declare the Blue Devils as the 2014 Women's Soccer Northeast Conference Champions.
The Blue Devils out shot the Knights in the match 12-8, including 5-1 in shots on goal. A couple of late corner kicks saw the Knights finish with a slight 4-3 edge.
Sophomore goalkeeper Nicki Turley picked up the win only needing to make one save in the match and improves her record to 10-5-4 on the year.
Branch paced the CCSU offense as she finished with three shots and one on goal, the game-winning goal. Her performance tabbed her the Player of the Game and also the 2014 NEC Tournament MVP.
Joining Branch on the All-Tournament Team was Sousa, Harding and junior defender Marissa Quesnel.
The championship for the Blue Devils is the first since 2008.
The NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Selection Announcement will take place on Monday, Nov. 10, at 4:30 p.m. to determine who and where the Blue Devils will play.