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SMITHFIELD, R.I. - The Quinnipiac field hockey team clinched the fourth and final berth in the Northeast Conference Tournament with a 3-0 win against Bryant. The Bobcats finish the regular season at 12-6 overall and 5-2 in the NEC while Bryant drops to 6-13 overall and 3-4 in conference play. The Bobcats' 12 victories match the program record for wins set by the 2002 team, while their seven non-conference wins are the most in program history.
Quinnipiac will face NEC top-seeded Rider on Friday, Nov. 2 in Lawrence, N.J., with No. 2 seed Saint Francis (Pa.) facing No. 3 seed Monmouth. The winners will play for the NEC Tournament Championship on Saturday, Oct. 3. Quinnipiac has now advanced to the NEC tournament for the fifth consecutive year, as well as qualifying for the 12th time in 14 years in the conference. Quinnipiac defeat Rider earlier this season, 2-1 on Oct. 14.
"The number one feeling we all have right now is pride," head coach Becca Main said. "Before today, we thought about the Holy Cross game earlier in the year. After that game, we sat down and tried to figure out who we were and who we were going to be. It's great to see what we have become as all of those things came to fruition."
Christa Romano (Madison, N.J.) scored twice with Danielle Allan (Riverdale, N.J.) assisting on both goals. Jess Rusin (Garwood, N.J.) also scored her team-leading ninth goal of the season. Rusin currently leads Quinnipiac with 24 points on nine goals and six assists while Romano continues her break-out season with three goals and four assists in her last five games.
"This was a great win," Romano said. "The first half was obviously the difference. Getting two goals early was a big momentum booster.We played our game, like we have all season, and it was a great team effort."
Nicole Lewis (East Amherst, N.Y.) recorded her fourth shutout of the season with a seven-save effort against the Bulldogs. The win also made Lewis the third goalkeeper in program history, along with Sarah Mathers '02 and Erin McKay '06, to win 30 career games. Lewis' 12th win of the season matches Mathers single-season win record from 2002.
"I feel amazing," Lewis said. "I was nervous before today's game, but now...I just can't describe it. It feels great to get back to the NEC tournament and have another shot at the conference title, which has been our goal all season. We played great and our defense was amazing. They stopped a lot of balls that I normally would have had to play."
Romano put the Bobcats on the board when she tipped a shot on goal past Bryant keeper Megan Hancock to give the Bobcats an early lead. Freshman Haley Swartz (Downington, Pa.) got her stick on a pass between two Bryant players attempting to get the ball out of their defensive zone and tipped it over to Danielle Allan (Riverdale, N.J.). Allan then blasted a shot towards the Bryant goal where a defender stopped the ball as Hancock left the cage to also attempt to make a play. Romano was able to poke the ball behind Hancock for the game's first goal as Allan was credited with an assist.
"Danielle [Allan] sent a cross ball in and I just re-directed it," Romano explained. "That's actually what happened on the second goal as well. We've been working a lot in practice on getting movement through the circle and both goals were a result of that."
With 14 seconds remaining in the first half, the Bobcats took a 2-0 lead when Rusin scored her team-leading ninth goal of the season. After the Bobcats were whistled and carded for a delay of game, Bryant took control of the ball with Quinnipiac playing shorthanded. Lauren Zimniski (Dallas, Pa.) intercepted a pass at midfield and blasted a pass deep into the Bryant zone to Rusin. Rusin was denied on her first attempt by Hancock, but she tipped the ball to keep it in the circle. With Hancock converging on the loose ball, Rusin dove to the turf, reached her stick out and guided the ball past Hancock to give the Bobcats a two-goal lead heading into the half.
With 13 minutes remaining in regulation, Amanda Danziger (Smithtown, N.Y.) played the ball into the Bulldogs' circle where it was re-directed to Allan, to the right of the cage. Allan fired a shot on goal that appeared to be heading wide of the target. Romano slid in front of a Bryant defender and tipped the ball past Hancock to give Quinnipiac a 3-0 lead.
"There are three areas that have made us successful this season," Main said. "First, our goalkeeping and the play of Nicole Lewis, who has been nothing short of amazing this year. Second, our junior class really bonded and was united throughout the season. Lastly, to have a freshman class buy-in so quick and dedicate themselves to their roles really completed the whole package."
Bobcat fans should refer to the Official Website of Quinnipiac Athletics, www.QuinnipiacBobcats.com, for Northeast Conference Tournament updates as well as the latest news, scores and highlights.