By Juan Betancourt
The Brookhaven College women’s soccer team won the National Junior College Athletics Association Division III District F Tournament for the second year in a row. The Bears defeated the Richland College Thunderducks 2-0, Oct. 28 to move on to play in the NJCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship. Last year, the Bears defeated the Thunderducks 2-1 in the conference finals.
AN EARLY LEAD
In the fourth minute, the Bears got the first corner kick of the game. Bears forward Deshae Darrell took the corner kick and crossed it to the penalty area. Thunderducks goalkeeper Sam Pacheco tried to grab the ball, but it slipped from her hands.
Bears captain Brenda Hernandez saw Pacheco’s mistake and headed the ball into the net, giving the Bears a 1-0 lead.
The Bears’ lead put more pressure on the Thunderducks’ defense.
“We scored so early in the game, we had to go hard right now and defend hard and not let anything in,” Hernandez said.
In the eighth minute, Bears midfielder Corrina Ortiz attempted a long-range shot on target, but her shot went far wide from the net.
Both teams waited for opportunities for an offensive breakaway play. But it was the Bears’ fierce offense and defense that kept the Thunderducks off their tails.
In the 18th minute, the Thunderducks attempted a free kick, but the ball was crossed to the penalty box. The Thunderducks had two chances to hit the ball into the net, but Bears defender Chelsey Ruiz- Guerrero did not hesitate to block both shots on target.
The Bears were not going to let the Thunderducks tie the game.
In the 22nd minute, Ruiz-Guerrero centered the ball above the Thunderducks’ defense. The ball landed near Bears Savanna Hernandez, but she was unable to keep control and the defense cleared it away.
In the 32nd minute, Hernandez fouled Thunderducks forward Cara Zwilling for a free kick attempt. The Thunderducks were out of sync as forward Jessica Dowse’s free kick went far wide.
The Bears had seven shots on target and the Thunderducks five in the first half, according to njcaa.org. The Bears were 45 minutes away from winning the conference.
ALL OR NOTHING
The Bears’ offense was close to scoring a second goal during the second half. They outplayed the Thunderducks with 12 shots to two in the second half, according to njcaa.org.
In the 52nd minute, Bears forward Joseline Sorto passed the ball to Darrell from a tight defensive backline. Darrell took a power shot on target, but Pacheco blocked it.
In the 85th minute, the Bears set up a short corner kick play. Darrell positioned herself to take the kick, but instead passed it to Ruiz-Guerrero. Ruiz-Guerrero passed it back to Darrell and crossed to the penalty box. The ball ricocheted off the Thunderducks’ defense. Sorto took advantage and tapped in the game-winning goal with five minutes remaining.
“It felt just amazing, everything worked perfectly,” Sorto said. “We been working so hard … I’m just speechless.”
With 10 seconds left, the crowd began counting down the remaining time. The game clock buzzed and the Bears were once again conference champions.
The Bears finished the season with an 11-3-1 record. Brookhaven scored 51 goals this season, the third highest in the nation, according to njcaa.org.
The Bears traveled to Dryden, New York, and competed at the NJCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship Nov. 9-12. In the tournament’s first round, Brookhaven defeated Montgomery College 3-0, Nov. 9. Last year, the Bears went to their first national soccer tournament and finished third. Jim Elder, head soccer coach, said the goal for this year is to win nationals.
“We went to our first dance last year, and now we want to take the crown,” Elder said.