Women's Soccer Makes NCAA Debut This Saturday at No. 6 Ithaca (NY)

Women's Soccer Makes NCAA Debut This Saturday at No. 6 Ithaca (NY)

Breaking Into The Big Dance: UMass Boston (18-2) will be making their first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament Saturday at 11 a.m. when they take on #6 Ithaca College (17-1-2) at 11 a.m.  The program is just the fifth in Beacons history to qualify for the NCAA Tournament and the first program to make their debut since 2010.

Scouting Out The Opposition: The Beacons will be playing Ithaca College for the first time in program history, with a date with another new team scheduled for Sunday, if they can win Saturday. In the other first round matchup at Carp Wood Field, Scranton University will take on Bowdoin College at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. The winner of each game will move on to play Sunday at 1:30.

Live Coverage: Live stats and audio will be available for all three games this weekend in Ithaca, N.Y. The link for live stats is: http://www.sidearmstats.com/ithaca/wsoc/scoreboard.aspx. While audio will be available at http://www.vicradio.org.   

A Season That Never Will Be Forgotten: The NCAA Tournament bid is just one of many historic accomplishments the women's soccer team has racked up in 2012. After winning 14 games in each of the past three seasons, UMass Boston has set program records for wins (18), conference-wins (6) and goals scored (69). UMass Boston also broke into the NSCAA and NCAA regional rankings and D3soccer.com National Rankings for the first time in program history. This week, the Beacons moved back into the Top 25 of the D3Soccer.com Poll at number 25.

Wrapping Up A Perfect Home Slate: After finishing 10-0 at the Clark Athletic Field in the regular season, the Beacons swept through the Little East Conference Tournament this past weekend with wins over Keene State and Western Connecticut State. Saturday, Amy Zombeck's crew beat the Owls for the second time this year, and second time in program history, behind goals from Tayla Andrews (Plymouth, Mass.), Krista Ledin (Bridgewater, Mass.) and Sam Cristoforo (Rockland, Mass.). In Sunday's championship's game, UMass Boston shut down the Colonials and Andrews provided the lone goal in the 61st minute, as the Beacons hoisted the LEC Tournament Title for the first time in program history.

Wracking Up Postseason Awards: The Little East Conference announced their postseason awards Tuesday afternoon and the Beacons came out on top. Ledin became the first player in program history to be named Offensive Player of the Year, while Zombeck earned her third LEC Coach of the Year Award. Andrews, Cristoforo and junior defender Alli Modzelewski (Newington, Conn.) all joined Ledin on the Little East Conference First Team. Sophomore transfer Amanda Pugliese (Pembroke, Mass.) was named to the Second Team in her first year with the Beacons.

Offensive Firepower:  The Beacons are having their best offensive season in program history, behind the four-headed monster of Ledin, Andrews, Cristoforo and Pugliese.

Ledin is second amongst all female collegiate soccer players with 63 points and stands third amongst Division III women's soccer players in points per game at 3.32. The sophomore forward has rewritten the UMass Boston and Little East Conference record books with her 26 goals, 11 assists and 63 points, while becoming just the second player in program history to reach the 100-point mark. She sits just two points shy of tying Kristin Mulry '11 for the program mark for career points (115).

Andrews has had a huge junior season, after suffering through a sophomore slump a year ago. The junior forward is amongst the top 20 in Division III in total goals (21-15th), total points (53-11th) and points per game (2.65-20th). She comes into the NCAA Tournament red hot, with points in seven straight games and 17 points over her past four contests.

Cristoforo has produced her biggest offensive campaign yet, with career-highs in goals (eight), assists (10) and points (26). The dominant central midfielder has added five game-winning goals and has given the Beacon a third 20-point scorer in the same season, for the first time in program history.

Pugliese has been the biggest surprise of all for the Beacons. The Southern New Hampshire University (Division II) transfer arrived on campus the week before school started and has started in all but one game this season. After playing in just one game a year ago with the Penmen, she has racked up five goals, seven assists and 17 points as the team's starting attacking midfielder.

Defense Wins Championships: Despite losing one of the best defenders in the New England Region last season in Samantha Place, UMass Boston's backline has been fantastic this season. Senior captains Brittney Spencer (West Brookfield, Mass.) Anna O'Donoghue (Swansea, Mass.) and Meghan O'Connell (Abington, Mass.) have been huge on the outside, while sophomore Brittany Castillo (Yarmouth, Mass.) and Caitlin Coleman (Willimantic, Conn.) have teamed up with Modzelewski to make an imposing center of the defense. The collective group has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 18 of their 20 contests and notched nine shutouts. Even more impressively, the group had their best pair of games all season against Keene State and Western Connecticut en route to the LEC Title. 

Spain Knows Best: Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Kristen Spain (Quincy, Mass.) has been phenomenal in net this year for UMass Boston. The Division I transfer from Francis Marion University has already set the single season and career program marks for wins (17) and has added 8.5 shutouts. Overall, Spain holds an .802 save percentage and 1.00 goals-against-average, while making 73 stops. This past weekend, Spain shut out two of the top team's in the LEC in scoring offense, by making 10 saves.

Getting To Know The Opponent: Ithaca College is ranked sixth in the nation this week in the NCAA and D3Soccer.com polls after winning the Empire 8 Conference Tournament in penalty kicks over Nazareth College. The Bombers will be making their 10th straight NCAA Tournament appearance and Division III NCAA Women's Soccer record 23rd overall trip. Ithaca has won two national championships (1990 and 1991) and gone 34-17-5 all-time in the Big Dance.

As a team, Ithaca is best known for their defensive prowess, as they rank third in the nation with a .926 save percentage, fourth in goals-against-average at .291 and fifth in the country with a shutout percentage of .75. Senior goalkeeper Becca Salant has started in 19 of 20 games this year for the Bombers and has gone 17-1-1 while allowing just six goals in just under 1700 minutes.

Senior forward Rachael Palladino is the leading force behind the Bombers offense with a team-leading 13 goals and 28 points. The four-year player has 60 career goals and this season has recorded a team-best six game-winners. Junior Ellyn Grant-Keane is second on the team with 21 points, while doling out an Ithaca nine assists.