WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – A header off a corner kick by senior Meaghan Dullea in the 49th minute gave second-seeded VCU a 1-0 win over No. 6 Northeastern Friday night in the semifinals of the 2011 Virginia 529 College Savings Plan Colonial Athletic Association Women's Soccer Championship at Albert-Daly Field. With the victory, the Rams, who extend their unbeaten streak to 10 games, return to the CAA championship match for the first time since 2007.
After three straight corner kicks in the 48th minute, the Rams finally capitalized on its fourth in a row as freshman Cristin Granados lifted the cross from the left side and found Dullea, who headed the ball into the near post from five yards out to put VCU on top 1-0. It was Dullea's second game-winning goal of the season.
"I'm very proud of our team's performance tonight," said VCU Co-Head Coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak. "You always have to be happy with a win in the semifinal match to go to the championship. The first half was a little ugly but that's what you would expect in a semifinal game. Both teams want to win, so it's going to be just a crazy battle and that's what it was in the first half. We're proud of our team for battling, and in the second half we got to play our game and possess a little bit more and have more opportunities to score."
VCU, which will face the winner of top-seeded William & Mary and Delaware on Sunday at 1 p.m., fired 16 of its 24 shots in the second half, while holding Northeastern to just one shot during the final 45 minutes. Nine different Rams collected shots with sophomore Courtney Conrad posting five with three on frame. Sophomore Taryn Cressy and freshman Maren Johansen finished with four apiece.
The Rams, who have not lost since suffering a 1-0 setback at Hofstra on Sept. 25, have allowed just two goals in their last 10 games, including eight shutouts.
VCU nearly got on the board less than five minutes into the match when a Northeastern defender passed back to goalkeeper Paige Burnett, but she was able to corral the ball before it slid over the goal line. Junior Gabby Wilson and Johansen also had looks in the first 10 minutes of the contest.
Shortly after, Northeastern countered with a series of chances during a three-minute stretch. Hanna Terry fired a point blank shot from the right side of the box in the 16th minute but VCU junior keeper Kristin Carden, who posted her ninth shutout of the season, made the stop. Carden also came up with saves on shots from Greta Samuelsdottier and Veronica Napoli.
Less than four minutes later, senior Molly Allen sent a cross from the left wing to classmate Azania, who launched a shot at Burnett, but she again made the save. The Huskies then tried to get on the board with 18 minutes left in the first half but Samuelsdottier's shot from the right wing hit the far post.
VCU had a flurry of chances during the closing minutes of the opening stanza but couldn't find the net and battled the Huskies to a scoreless first half. Cressy just missed the far post with a strike in the 40th minute. Two minutes later, junior Heather Hovanesian sent a pass to sophomore Bex Kunz but Burnett made a save to keep the Rams off the board. Then, with just inside a minute to play before intermission, Cressy fired another look from the top of the box but Burnett collected her fourth save of the period.
The Rams regrouped and wasted little time in the second half creating two quick scoring opportunities, but Burnett was there again for a pair of stops. Less than a minute later, following three straight corner kicks in the 48th minute, the Rams finally capitalized on its fourth in a row when Granados found Dullea for the eventual game-winner.
"To be honest, I really wasn't thinking and I just went for it," said Dullea. "I remember starting the run and then I remember the ball going into the back of the net.
"I never would have imagined it would have happened," Dullea said of scoring the game-winner in what could have potentially been her final game of her career. "To be honest, I don't care whether I score or someone else scores but it's nice to be the one to do it."
Johansen hit the near post on a shot from 25 yards out in the 57th minute before Northeastern came up with a critical defensive save to keep the Huskies within a goal. Conrad fired a shot but Northeastern defender Laura Holmstedt stuck her right foot out and punched the ball over the net to keep the Huskies' chances alive.
Carden later made a save on a shot by Napoli with eight minutes to play in what proved to be Northeastern's only chance of the second half.
"The difference between the first and second half was that Northeastern just ran out of gas," Roberts Sahaydak said. "They fought so hard and we give them so much credit. They had to play 110 minutes yesterday and then had to put together 90 more minutes today. They battled the entire time but physically it's hard to go back-to-back.
"We put ourselves in a good position being in second place to not have to do that. I think we got the advantage there. I give a lot of credit to Northeastern for their battle but once they ran out of gas, we were able to combat that by keeping the ball. And when you keep the ball, they start chasing and get even more tired."
Friday's match was VCU's first CAA Tournament appearance since 2007. That year, the Rams also advanced to the championship match but lost 1-0 to Hofstra in Virginia Beach, Va.