All signs indicated this was the year Navy's women's soccer team would win its first Patriot League title.
The Midshipmen had posted a 17-2-1 record, outscored the opposition, 51-11, and gone unbeaten in league play (5-0-1). They entered the championship game with Colgate yesterday with nine wins and a tie in their last 10 games. What's more, the Mids had won their regular-season meeting with the Red Raiders Sept. 12, 2-1.
But a chilled crowd of several hundred fans at Dewey Field, which is on a site along the Severn River, found out why Colgate has dominated the league, competing in all eight championship games.
The Red Raiders (13-6) used a goal by freshman star Angela Puliafico on an assist by junior forward Andrea Licari midway through the first half and then fought off tremendous pressure from Navy in the second half to win their fifth straight Patriot League crown, 1-0.
The game-winning collaboration was hardly surprising since Licari and Puliafico, chosen the tournament's MVP, finished 1-2 in the league scoring race.
It was a bitter defeat for the Mids, who would have earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament starting Wednesday.
"It's very discouraging," said Navy coach Carin Gabarra, a gold medalist with the U.S. soccer team in the 1996 Olympics. "We dominated the game. We had plenty of chances. They had one chance. We made one mistake on defense and they capitalized.
"We gave a tremendous team effort in the second half. We did everything but put the ball in the net. But that's what soccer is all about."
Seldom did the Red Raiders pass midfield in the second half. Navy's Kristen Rishandel and Shannon Filbin had several opportunities to tie the score, with Filbin having the best chance on a missed header with 13: 13 left.
"The second half felt like it was two hours long," said Colgate coach Kathy Brawn, who claimed her fifth league title.
"This was more satisfying than the last four," she said. "A lot of people gave up on this team after we started out 1-5. It took great belief on the players' part to dig out of that hole.
"And it makes it all the sweeter beating a great Navy team. I felt they definitely had the edge coming in. But Angela [Puliafico] has been scoring clutch goals for us all season. It's hard to believe she's only a freshman."