Lake Buena Vista, Fla. - Tessa McClenahan scored the game-winning goal off an Amanda Meehan assist in the 67th minute, as Loyola women's soccer erased a 2-0 halftime deficit to defeat Niagara, 3-2, in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship Game on Monday afternoon at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex.
With the victory, the Greyhounds advanced to their seventh NCAA College Cup and are unbeaten in a program-record 14 games (12-0-2). Loyola is the first team in the country to advance to the College Cup through a conference tournament this season.
As it had in the previous two tournament games, Loyola had to come from behind to earn the victory, but for the first time all season, Loyola had to erase a two-goal deficit. The one-goal victory was the tenth of its kind on the season.
Niagara got on the board early at 10:24 on a goal by Brittany Benthin and would add another goal at 39:28 off the foot of Adrianna Gallo.
Loyola and Niagara both recorded 11 shots in the first half, but Loyola came out firing on all cylinders in the second stanza.
Just over 16 minutes into the second half, freshman Gianna Mangione was fouled inside the box, stopping the clock and allowing senior Christina Gomez to score on the penalty kick. The score was Gomez' sixth of the season, tying her for second on the team and 24th of her career.
Two minutes and 14 seconds later, senior Heather Cooke took a shot from the right side, which was deflected by Mangione for the game-tying goal.
Now tied at two goals apiece, Loyola continued to attack as Gomez maintained possession of the ball in the middle of the field with some fancy dribbling. Gomez would then send a pass down the right flank to fellow senior Amanda Meehan, who served a pass far post, and was headed in by the five-foot-nine McClenahan.
Loyola outshot Niagara, 13-5, in the second half, giving the Greyhounds a 24-16 shot advantage on the day.
In the defeat, Purple Eagles' goalkeeper Ashleigh Bowers made nine saves, while freshman Danielle Ippolito made three stops in the victory for the `Hounds.
Following the game, four Greyhounds, including freshman Gianna Mangione, who was named the MAAC Championships Most Valuable Player, were selected to the All-Tournament Team. Joining Mangione on the team were graduate student Theresa Ferraina, Cooke and Ippolito.
Loyola, now 15-4-3 overall and 9-0-0 in the MAAC, will have 11 days off before the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The pairings for the field of 64 will be announced on Monday, November 9 at 8:00 pm. Live coverage of the selection show will be aired on ESPNEWS.