Stanco’s First-Career Goal Sends Women’s Soccer to A-10s

Charlie Maisano, Staff Writer

It was a very stressful five days for the Fordham women’s soccer team, but all the hard work and determination from the student-athletes paid off in the end.

With the Atlantic 10 Tournament beginning this week, the Rams needed crucial points in order to clinch a spot in the top eight and make it to the quarterfinals. Their quest to make the conference tournament took a major blow last Thursday when they fell 3–0 to the University of Dayton Flyers.

The Flyers entered the contest as winners of three out of their last five games dating back to the start of the month and had plenty of momentum coming onto the pitch. The Flyers received plenty of help from the team’s third leading scorer, senior defender Jordan Pauley, to carry them to victory. Pauley was able to score her first goal of the night less than 10 minutes into the game.

In the ninth minute, a foul was called in the box, which allowed Pauley to take her fourth penalty shot of the season. She was 3–3 coming into the game and converted on the fourth by sending the ball just past the outstretched gloves of senior Rams goalie Kelly LaMorte. Only 18 minutes later, Pauley was on the board again. Instead of a penalty shot, she took a free kick from almost 30 yards out and banged the ball under the crossbar and into the net for the early 2–0 lead.

The Flyers would tack on an insurance goal in the 74th minute courtesy of freshman Landy Mertz, with her third goal of the season. On the defensive side of the ball, the Flyers did their best containing Fordham’s offensive aggressiveness. The Rams were held to only three shots on goal and were shut out in a loss for the sixth time this year.

With the loss, the Rams entered an intense situation. Their last regular-season game came against the Davidson College Wildcats on Sunday. Both teams had 11 points prior to the season finale, and a win by either squad would clinch an automatic spot in the A-10 Tournament. As if the pressure wasn’t already high enough, the game was postponed due to inclement weather from Sunday morning to Monday morning at 10 a.m.

After a day to rest and mentally prepare for the biggest game of the season, both teams played a good defensive first half. The Rams and Wildcats combined for five total shots but neither team was able to score. The real intensity came out from each team in the second half.

Although they missed an opportunity to take the lead in the 66th minute, the Wildcats were able to strike first in the 67th minute. Rachel Schleicher corralled a pass that was almost taken away by Fordham, and eventually booted in her first goal of the season. With only 10 minutes to go in the game, and the season on the line, the Rams went into attack mode. Senior Maggie Roughley tried to head in a cross in the box, but hit the crossbar. The ball then ricocheted towards junior Crea Baker-Durante, who shot the ball just under the crossbar to tie the game up at one apiece.

Both teams were unable to score the game-winner in regulation, so the biggest game of the season for either team headed to overtime. A winner would not have to wait much longer, as the Rams broke through five minutes into overtime for the 2-1 victory. LaMorte punted the ball downfield and it bounced at the 30-yard line. Junior Maura Holst maintained possession on the run and quickly passed the ball towards a cutting sophomore Marissa Stanco. Stanco one-timed the ball at the 15-yard line over the head of the Davidson goalie for the walk-off winner. That was Stanco’s first career goal, and it came at the most important time.

The Rams ended up finishing the 2019 campaign with a 5–10–4 record (4–4–2 in conference) and are now the #6 seed in the A-10 Tournament. They will travel to Amherst, Massachusetts and face the #3 seeded University of Massachusetts Minutewomen on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. While the Minutewomen were the better team this year, anything can happen in the playoffs and the Rams will be ready for the challenge.