GENEVA, N.Y. - Junior Samantha Cronin (Wethersfield, Conn./Wethersfield) scored her second goal of the season 13 minutes into the second half to propel the Wheaton College women's soccer team to a 1-0 win over Salisbury University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday afternoon at Cozzens Field.
With the win, the Lyons improve to 16-3-3 on the season and 15-10-2 all-time in the NCAA Tournament - including 7-1-0 in first round matches. They advance to the second round for the third-consecutive season and will face No. 2 William Smith Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. The two schools met in the national quaterfinal round in 2002 and played to a scoreless tie. The Herons advanced on penalty kicks, 5-4.
The Sea Gulls (13-6-2) outshot the Lyons 7-2 in the first half but were unable to put one past senior goalkeeper Erin Cawley (West Springfield, Mass./West Springfield), who was making just her fourth start of the season. The best scoring chance for either side came with five minutes remaining in the half when Salisbury junior Sarah Pfundstein (Crofton, Md.) drilled a shot from 10 yards out off the left post.
Wheaton nearly grabbed a 1-0 lead two minutes into the second half but junior Samantha Bennett (Weymouth, Mass./Weymouth) chipped a loose ball from in close over the net. Minutes later, senior Kaitlyn Mawicke (Trumbull, Conn./Notre Dame Catholic) sent a free kick from just inside the center line into the box, and Cronin headed it past Salisbury freshman goalkeeper Michelle Conrad (St. James, N.Y.) at 58:08.
"We were told at halftime to run through the ball, which is what I did on Kaitlyn's kick," said Cronin, who is second on the team with six assists. "Luckily, it went right through the defenders and I got there before the goalie did. I think that's where the game turned around. Right after that, we picked up our play and bunkered in. We played smart defense."
The Lyons did indeed tighten up the defense from that point on, allowing just four shots the rest of the way. Salisbury received three corner kicks in the final 20 minutes of action but could not capitalize on any of them. Cawley finished the afternoon with five saves as the Lyons picked up their 13th shutout of the season, which is tied for 10th all-time in program history.
"They had some great chances. We dodged some bullets, but that's soccer," said Wheaton head coach Luis Reis. "At this time of year, it just takes one chance, and we took advantage of our opportunity and buried it. I'm really proud of how our team responded in the second half. We played a more physical, aggressive game in the second half, and we also played with more urgency. Our backs really came through when we needed them. We had some timely tackles and clears, and Erin Cawley was very composed in the box. She has all the confidence in the world, and we had no doubt she would play well."
Wheaton outshot the Sea Gulls 7-6 in the second half but were outshot overall, 13-9. The Sea Gulls also held a 5-4 edge in corner kicks. Conrad finished with two saves.
The Lyons have now won five of their last six matches overall and improve to 10-1-1 away from home this season. They own a 4-4-2 all-time record in the NCAA Second Round, a mark which includes an OT win over Middlebury in 2002 and a win in penalty kicks over Williams in 2004.