NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Most coaches would say that one of the hardest things to do in any sport is to repeat as champions. Well, the Monroe College women's soccer team took a huge step closer to doing that very feat with a 2-1, upset win over #2 Tyler Community College on Wednesday in Melbourne, Florida. With the victory, the Mustangs are through to the semifinals against host school and top-seed, Eastern Florida at 5PM on Friday.
In what has been the blueprint for success all season, Monroe opened by pressuring the ball and forcing the issue. The manic pace paid off for the Mustangs with a goal in the first ten minutes. After winning a corner kick, Elysa Virella played the ball short to Brooke Smith, who quickly gives it back to her. Virella then created an angle on her shot so difficult that Euclid would have had been perplexed if he had seen it. She hooked a shot off her right foot that was nearly perpendicular to the goal and bent inside the far post to put Monroe ahead, 1-0.
From there, the Monroe defense took over. The backline of Ana Hess, Melissa Gonzalez, Smith and Gabriela Braga planted their flag along the base of the box, preventing any Tyler counterattacks to get close to the goal.
The persistence of the Mustangs was awarded later in the first half, with just 0:53 seconds left. Bruna Tavarez controlled the ball outside the box. She dribbled towards goal and was taken out by a Tyler defender to earn a penalty kick. Aline Delima calmly delivered a bullet, hard and low, into the lower right corner of the goal. The 2-0 score stood through halftime.
Tyler wouldn't go quietly in the second half. challenging Monroe goalie, Jordan Wainwright, several times. The languid offense, which was dormant in the first 45, awoke with the roar of a lion and nearly tied the game early in the half.
In the 58th minute, Wainwright, a Florida native, herself, made a sprawling save as she dove far to her left to slap a shot headed for goal, just around the post and out of bounds for a corner kick.
About three minutes later, Tyler nearly lit the lamp again. After winning a corner, the Tyler kicker wrapped the ball towards the Monroe goal where Wainwright leaped and stretched her hand and tapped the ball back into the play. A Tyler forward headed the rebound to goal, but Wainwright caught it to alleviate any trouble for the Mustangs.
Tyler got on the board with ten minutes to go in the game, but Monroe prevailed, 2-1, to earn a spot in the semifinal on Friday.
After the game, Monroe Head Coach Jonathan Garbar sounded sanguine when speaking about his team's performance in the tournament so far. "We're just proving ourselves right," Garbar stated of the defending champions. He continued: "You can put us where ever you want. As long as there is a field and there is a ball we're going to give you a game. I feel bad for everybody who's had to deal with us already."
Monroe improved to 15-2 with the victory. In the semifinal, the Mustangs are slated to face the top seed in the tournament and host school, Eastern Florida. These two schools met a season ago in the semifinal round and played to a scoreless draw. Monroe advanced to the championship game (which they later won) by defeating the Titans in penalty kicks, 4-2. The game is scheduled to begin at 5:00 PM.