The crowd could feel it, the team could feel and the Landmark Conference definitely could feel it. After ranking first in the preseason poll, the University of Scranton Women’s soccer team is now the back-to-back Landmark Conference champion.
The Royals battled Susquehanna ending a 2-0 final score on Nov. 4, earning goalie Colleen Berry her 12th shutout of the season.
“I don’t think there are words to describe the feeling. It’s honestly so amazing and rewarding to be lucky enough to raise the landmark championship trophy not only once but twice. We have worked so hard for this,” said junior midfielder Brittany Uricchio.
The ultimate game winning goal came in the third minute scored by sophomore defender Rebecca Russo. On a corner kick delivered by Taylor Stevens, Russo headed the ball past Susquehanna goalie Jennifer Thorsheim.
“It’s a huge testament to Taylor because the ball she played was perfect,” said Russo. “As soon as it was coming in, personally I knew someone was going to get on the end of it. She is so consistent with her corners and we’ve scored a lot off of those.”
Russo was named most valuable player of the game, but not only for the headed goal. The MVP status also arose from her staple spot in the defensive line. The Royals held Susquehanna to six shots, led by a strong defense from Russo and senior defenders Hannah DeMars and Katie Cullen.
“One of their defensive backs likes to cross it, and we knew that. We watched film prior and we talked about it as a defensive unit,” said Russo.
Having already beaten them in the regular season, the women were confident heading into their championship game. However, with a famously impressive run through both conference and non-conference games, it was important for the Royals to stay on guard.
“Ending conference play 7-0 we become the team to beat and when teams play us they want to win. We were prepared for them to come out strong and put up a good fight,” said Uricchio.
Uricchio assisted the insurance goal for the Royals, with a header just as impressive as Russo’s.
“Honestly, I just saw the ball coming straight towards me and I knew that I had to get my head on it to give us a chance to score whether I put it in the net or just to cause chaos in the box,” said Uricchio. “After the initial contact I wasn’t even quite sure where it had gone but was happy that my fellow teammate Jamie Hreniuk could tap it in.”
That was Uricchio’s fourth assist of the season and Hreniuk’s 12th goal.
The win over Susquehanna propelled the team into the NCAA tournament and the next challenger to step up to the plate is Rowan University. This is also the second year in a row that the Royals have secured a spot in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Both teams are powerhouses and greatly respected in both their conferences and the division three women’s soccer world. Rowan even received an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament after falling in the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship game on Oct. 31.
“I am very excited to play Rowan this weekend. I think it is a good matchup for us. We have both played a few of the same teams and I think we are very evenly matched,” said Uricchio.
The University of Scranton women’s soccer team has dominated over the years, and worked hard to earn their back-to-back title. Playing “scranton soccer” is what they do best and is what they’ll need to do Nov. 11 against Rowan.
When asked if they are doing anything special to prepare, Russo said, “focusing on ourselves and what we can do to play our best game.” Spoken like a true and humble champion.
The Royals travel to Messiah College to face Rowan at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11. The winner of that game will advance to the next round of the NCAA tournament against Westfield State.