The Holyoke Community College women's soccer team ended its season ranked third in the nation after defeating Howard Community College from Maryland Sunday in the consolation game of the NJCAA Division III National Championship.
This is only the second time in school history the Cougars have made it to the Final Four and third is the best finish ever for the program.
In the game against Howard CC, played at championship host site Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden, N.Y., .HCC was facing a 1-0 halftime deficit. Falling behind 2-0 in the second half, the Cougars fought back in their last game of the 2013 season. Nikki Callini (West Springfield, MA), the Cougar's most outstanding tournament player, kicked off the comeback scoring two minutes after what looked to be the knockout punch second goal by the Dragons. Assisted by Tina Mullin, the Cougars were back in the game trailing 2-1.
As Tyler Lendon and Jess Teodore kept the offensive pressure on, it was Callini again connecting to find Tai Lopez up front to tie the game 2-2. In the national consolation game, no golden goal overtime is played, thus forcing a penalty kick shootout as time expired. The Cougars this season have not lost in a penalty kick tiebreaker situation thanks in a big part to goalkeeper Amanda Olson. Olson's ability to make saves in a penalty kick situation has proved invaluable for the Holyoke team.
After five shots each, both teams had scored 4 times. Kaley Donovan, Nikki Callini, Jess Teodore, and Devon Wolfenden each netted a goal. Olson had turned away one Howard shooter, and forced a 6th penalty shot to decide the game. Centerback Tina Mullin stepped up and knocked home the 5th goal for the Cougars, while Olson rejected the Howard shooter ending the game 5-4 in favor of Holyoke. Together, the team's work and determination put them on top to finish third in the nation, the highest ever finish in Holyoke history.
Teammates Nikki Callini and Devon Wolfenden were among 12 named to the All Tournament team. The ladies finished their season with an impressive 14-5-2 overall record, setting individual and team records along the way.
The national championship game featured Brookdale Community College defeating Mohawk Valley Community College, the team that eliminated Holyoke from championship contention, 4-3 in regulation play on Friday.
All photos courtesy of the official Facebook page of the NJCAA Division III Women's Soccer Championship.