Sophomore Jenna Rae Covello scored the game-winning goal with just under two minutes remaining to help the Central Connecticut women's soccer team capture the Northeast Conference championship with a 2-1 win over Saint Francis U. on Sunday at CCSU Soccer Field. Senior Danielle Pearse, who scored three goals on the weekend, earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
The Blue Devils, who have won 10 straight games and are unbeaten in 17 straight games, improved to 16-1-2 on the season.
CCSU will find out its next opponent when bracket for the 2018 NCAA Championship bracket will be announced announced on Monday at 4:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.
The championship is the program's ninth all-time. The Blue Devils won their seventh championship under head coach Mick D'Arcy and reclaimed the title for the first time since 2014.
The Blue Devils pressured the Red Flash for stretches of the first half. Covello had a pair of dangerous chances midway through the period, but SFU's Julia Hernan made two saves. The second coming on a shot by Covello from distance that forced Hernan to punch the ball away just over a half hour into the half.
The Red Flash would apply pressure to the Central defense with five minutes to go in the period, but senior Ashley Cavanaugh managed to stifle both opportunities.
Central would respond in the waning moments of the half, forcing a pair of saves. Sophomore Tess Atkinson had the first chance, slipping in behind the SFU defense, but her shot was blanketed by Hernan.
With 3:30 to play in the period, senior Charlotte Maurer got on the end of a cross from freshman Roma McLaughlin on the left side of goal. Maurer settled the ball and managed to get a shot from close-range, but Hernan came out to stop the ball to keep the game scoreless.
Nearly eight minute into the second half, Central played a long ball ahead to Pearse. She possessed the ball until Covello picked the ball up at the top of the 18-yard box and got off a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar.
The Blue Devils opened the scoring in the 67th minute. Covello dribbled from the right side and sent a low cross into the front of the goal. Senior Danielle Pearse got her toe to the ball at the right side of the goal to poke it into the net and make it 1-0.
Saint Francis would find the game-tying goal with 12:47 to play. Mariana Jaleca set up for a free kick and sent the ball into the front where Sara Suler got her head to it and directed the shot into the net to make it 1-1.
The game-winner came with 1:57 to play when Covello picked up the ball on the right side and dribbled into the middle of the box. Her left-footed shot took a deflection from 12 yards out past the goalkeeper to make it 2-1.
CCSU finished with a 21-12 advantage in shots, forcing Hernan into making nine stops on the day. Cavanaugh made five saves for Central.
The Blue Devils will find out their next opponent when bracket for the 2018 NCAA Championship bracket will be announced announced on Monday at 4:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.
Pearse was named the NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player and was joined by three teammates on the All-Tournament Team. Covello, who had a goal and assist in the championship game, along with junior Yo Tachibana and sophomore Erica Bardes earned All-Tournament honors.