Haisha Cantave, left got Darton on the board first Saturday to give them a 1-0 cushion en route to a 2-1 win. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — With six minutes left in the NJCAA District F Championship game Saturday night, the Darton College women’s soccer team got a little antsy, desperately wanting an insurance goal to secure a victory that would land them a trip to nationals.
When three minutes hit, the restlessness intensified.
But when time expired, that anxiety quickly turned into jubilation as they Lady Cavaliers flooded the field to celebrate their 2-1 win against Brevard (Fla.) Community College on their home field.
“It wasn’t our best effort, but we got the job done,” said Darton head coach Ken Veilands, who was mobbed by his players amid his post-game interview.
With the win, Darton (16-2-2) was able to avenge one of its two losses this year — a home shutout to Brevard (9-4-1) back in September. More importantly, the win sent Darton to the National Championship in Melbourne, Fla, and sent Brevard — which would’ve hosted the run to the national title in its hometown had it won — on a long bus ride home back to Florida.
The Darton men will also be heading to nationals after downing Spartanburg (S.C.) earlier Saturday, 3-2, in its own District F Championship on the road.
“Words cannot describe how excited we are,” Darton goalie Sarah Story said.
Oddly enough, the biggest play of the game came three minutes after play started. With the sun setting in the eyes of the Brevard players, Veilands instructed Haisha Cantave to drive the ball into the box. Positioned on the backside, Cantave finished the play by scoring the goal after a Renee Hurd assist.
“I had a free kick and open space and I just kicked it in,” Cantave said. “To get a goal like that was pretty exciting.”
Exciting for No. 4 nationally ranked Darton. Disappointing for No. 11 Brevard.
“(That) goal was a huge difference that put us behind,” Brevard head coach Jeff Carr said. “It was a mistake by our keeper who stayed on the line when she shouldn’t have. They were the better team (Saturday) night and there’s not much more you can say.”
The Lady Titans scored their lone goal with 22 minutes left in the first period to tie it at 1-1. Lois Edvardsson broke away from the pact and set up Morgan Currie, who sailed the ball over Story’s head into the top left corner of the net.
The goal, however, was not enough to break the focus of the Lady Cavaliers. They simply had to heed Veilands’ direction to be patient.
“We needed possession,” he said. “We wanted to hold onto the ball, move it around, look for our opportunities, and not get into a hurry.”
An opportunity came with just under six minutes to play before intermission when Shelby Bush scored her 32nd goal of the season, giving Darton the 2-1 advantage.
“Deanna (Reali) just hit a nice ball through, I beat one defender, cut off another one and placed it in that back corner focusing on getting it in the back net to put my team ahead,” said Bush, who is the third-leading scorer in the NJCAA.
With a lead, the second period was all about Story and the Lady Cavalier defense.
“I had to stay focused and keep my head in the game because on the backline you have to get everything out,” said Story, who finished with three saves.
Darton had 14 total shots with four coming from Cantave. Bush and Lindsey Warner each had three.
“It’s nationals or bust now,” Bush said. “We are all in it to win it.”
The Lady Cavs are now headed to the NJCAA National Championship, which begin Nov. 17. Seeds are to be announced Monday.
Minus top two players, Darton men still win District title, punch ticket to nationals: One season after reaching nationals but falling short of their goal of winning it all, Darton College’s men’s soccer squad ensured it would have a chance at redemption after beating Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College, 3-2, on Saturday in the District final.
“Hat’s off to that team — they wanted it, man. They were good,” Darton College head coach Bart Sasnett said. “We just wanted it more.”
With Saturday’s decisive win, Sasnett’s boys, now 18-1 and ranked No. 2 in the nation, are among eight teams destined for the NJCAA National Championship tournament in Phoenix, which starts Nov. 15.
It wasn’t a win that came easy though with leading scorer Diego Ramos and second-leading scorer Carlos Trombino Filho out injured. Still, the Cavaliers dominated the first half with sophomore Kevin Arellana and Miama freshman Matthew Treuman scoring to give Darton a 2-0 lead it wouldn’t give back.
Spartanburg closed the gap to 2-1 late, but Troy Tucker scored to put Darton back on top.
Seeds for the NJCAA Championship will be announced Monday.