Top-Seeded Women’s Soccer Blanks No. 4 Hartford, 2-0, to Advance to the Finals

Championship Central

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BALTIMORE – The top-seeded UMBC women's soccer team continued its Cinderella story by scoring a pair of first half goals and shutting out No. 4 Hartford, 2-0, in America East Championship Semifinal action on Sunday afternoon at Retriever Soccer Park. The victory was the Retrievers' first-ever America East Championship victory and advances UMBC to the league finals set for Saturday, Nov. 9 versus No. 2 Stony Brook.

The America East Women's Soccer Fans' Choice Player of the Year Alexa Quaranta (Baltimore, Md./Perry Hall) opened the scoring for the Retrievers and junior back Morgan Taylor (Severna Park, Md./Severna Park) added her first collegiate goal to give UMBC a two-goal first half lead. Senior goalkeeper Lauren Kadet (Oakville, Ontario/St. Thomas Aquinas) added her fifth shutout of the season to give UMBC its highest win total in program history (12-5-2), while Hartford concludes its 2013 campaign with an 11-6-3 record.

Quaranta put UMBC out in front 12:44 into the contest with her team-leading eighth goal of the season. Sophomore back Nikki Boretti (Crofton, Md./Archbishop Spalding) tapped a free kick over to Quaranta, who blasted a shot inside the far left post to give the Retrievers a 1-0 lead.

The Retrievers, who only connected on four scores in the first half prior to Sunday, struck for the second time in the opening half on a long ball from Taylor, that was knocked down by the Hartford netminder inside the net, resulting in Taylor's first collegiate goal.

UMBC looked to add further insurance with nine minutes to go in the first, as a cross from freshman midfielder Meg Kowalski (Freehold, N.J./Freehold Township) was sent just a little too high for junior midfielder Lilly Rydon (Stirling, South Australia/Concordia College), keeping the score 2-0 at the break.  

Quaranta had a chance to give UMBC a three-goal lead, as a centering pass from senior Stephanie Smith (Severna Park, Md./Archbishop Spalding) gave Quaranta an open look at the net from five yards out, but the second-year forward sent her shot just left of the post in the 59th minute.

Hartford put the pressure on the Retrievers in the second half, resulting in back-to-back scoring opportunities for the Hawks. Junior midfielder Stephanie Santos launched a free kick into the crowd in front of the net, allowing freshman back Caitlin Smallfield a shot attempt that soared high.

The Hawks followed up with a corner kick in the 65th minute that gave its leading scorer and the league's Striker of the Year Chanel Johnson a shot in the box, but Kadet came up with one of her four saves on the afternoon to keep Hartford off the board.

Quaranta gave UMBC another opportunity, gathering a ball and slipping a pass through a pair of Hartford defenders for Smith, but Smith was unable to place a shot on net, sending her attempt off the mark with 13:40 to go in the contest.

The Retrievers would hold Hartford to just two more shot attempts in the contest to capture their seventh victory in their last eight chances.

UMBC will make the program's fifth appearance in a conference tournament championship game when it hosts No. 2 Stony Brook on Saturday, Nov. 9. The Retrievers will look for their first-ever league tournament title and a trip to its first NCAA tournament. First kick is set for 7 p.m. at Retriever Soccer Park.

Notes
-Alexa Quaranta's eight goals on the season are the most for a Retriever since Jessica Young scored 12 in 2005. Quaranta also entered the top-10 in UMBC's single-season shots list, tying for fourth with 59 shots on the year.
-Lauren Kadet took sole possession of fifth place on UMBC's single-season shutout list, blanking 10 opponents in her career.
-UMBC women's soccer is 9-9 all-time in advancing the conference tournament games.