Saturday, November 6, 2010

Determined Dutchwomen heading to CAA finals

Hofstra women's soccer coach Simon Riddiough, goalie Emily Morphitis and forward Salma Tarik meet the press after the Flying Dutchwomen's 3-0 win over Georgia State Friday.

What’s more dangerous than a nationally ranked team that enjoyed an unbeaten conference season and has the longest winning streak in the country? A team that enjoyed an unbeaten season, has the longest winning streak in the country and feels overlooked.

Hofstra took home a lot of hardware at the CAA awards banquet Thursday—senior midfielder Tiffany Yovino won Player of the Year, five Flying Dutchwomen earned All-CAA first- or second-team honors and coach Simon Riddiough was named Coach of the Year—but Riddiough thought the Dutchwomen were underrepresented and told them as much before their CAA semifinal game against Georgia State Friday night.

“Before the game we spoke about awards and [how] I thought our girls got gypped a little bit,” Riddiough said. “We were 11-0, we dominated all offensive categories, we dominated all defensive categories and we only get one forward on the three CAA teams and we get one defender on the three CAA teams?”

The Dutchwomen responded to the slights [editor’s note: SOUTHERN BIAS SOUTHERN BIAS SOUTHERN BIAS!!!!] by dominating Georgia State on both ends of the field in a resounding 3-0 win in front of a Hofstra Soccer Stadium-record crowd of 1,147. Hofstra, which ran its winning streak to 18 games and improved to 18-1, advances to the CAA championship game Sunday at 1 p.m. against James Madison, which edged George Mason on penalty kicks in the first semifinal.

The Dutchwomen, ranked 18th nationally, played with the lead almost the entire night, though it took two second half goals off headers by senior Salma Tarik (the forward who was the only Dutchwomen offensive player to make any of the All-CAA teams) to break open the game, and outshot Georgia State 30-6. Defensively, the Dutchwomen clamped down on the Panthers aside from a brief flurry by the visitors shortly after intermission in which Hofstra freshman goalie Emily Morphitis made a pair of point-blank saves.

“I wanted the girls to step up and show a message,” Riddiough said. “And we kept a clean sheet again to prove our defensive prowess and Salma and Laura Greene [who assisted on both of Tarik’s goals] did a great job offensively to prove [their] prowess in the final third."

Hofstra outshot Georgia State 59-10 in two games this year, but the Panthers proved as pesky Friday as they were two weeks earlier at Hofstra, when the Dutchwomen needed overtime to eke out a 3-2 win.

The Dutchwomen, who grabbed a 1-0 lead 2:34 into the game on Amy Turner’s penalty kick, controlled play throughout the first half Friday before Georgia State mustered some momentum within the first 20 minutes of the second half. Apryl Goodwin broke free at the 15-minute mark and was all alone in the goalmouth before Morphitis pounced on the ball. About five minutes later, her header from inside 10 yards was snared by Morphitis.

“It was a bit nerve-wracking, the first 15 minutes,” said Morphitis, who, as usual, replaced starting goalie Krista Thorn at halftime. “Got a bit panicky. But after that we really settled down.”

Tarik wasted little time giving Morphitis the cushion she and the rest of the Flying Dutchwomen needed. Less than a minute after Goodwin’s near-goal, Tarik’s gorgeous diving header off a crossing pass from Greene extended the lead to 2-0. The duo combined to remove any doubt at the 16-minute mark, when Tarik again headed in a crossing pass from Greene for the final tally.

“It was a good relief going up 2-0,” Tarik said. “It’s not the greatest lead in soccer, but it definitely gives us momentum to keep pushing forward. I think one of our players said ‘Let’s score more, it’s getting fun.’ So that’s what we did and it was fun.”

Riddiough and the Dutchwomen hope the fun—and the message-delivering—is just beginning. Riddiough is impressed with the Dukes, whom Hofstra edged 1-0 Sept. 24, but is confident the Dutchwomen will walk off the field champions Sunday if they play as well and as focused as they did Friday.

“James Madison is a good team, they gave us a good matchup…they’re a bit more athletic than Georgia State and they’ve probably got a couple more special players,” Riddiough said. “It’s just a matter of if we can stop their special players. We will beat JMU if we play like we did tonight.”

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