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Mighty Oaks Women Fall in National Soccer Tournament Final

Men end season in pool play; XC women place 4th, men 5th

The ESF women's soccer team made it to the championship game of the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association Nov. 14 before falling 2-0 to a strong team from the University of Maine, Fort Kent.

Earlier in the tournament, the Mighty Oaks had defeated the No. 7 seed, NHTI (Concord Community College), and the No. 11 seed, Johnson and Wales - Charlotte. In the semifinal, the ESF team got the win over rival Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

""I am incredibly proud of this team. They held their own against a very technical and talented Maine team. This is the furthest we've ever gotten as a program and it's an accomplishment all these players and coaches should be proud of. These players deserve a lot of credit for throwing their hearts into this season and staying strong together," said Head Coach Dan Ramin.

The Mighty Oaks entered the tournament as a No. 2 seed after winning the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament and boasting a 15-2-1 record. In the first game of pool play, ESF faced the No. 7 seed, NHTI (Concord Community College). The Lynx entered the tournament with a 15-2 record and were the Yankee Small College Athletic Conference champions. The Lynx got on the board first, nine minutes into the game, when Jelasa Nelson tapped in a cross from Shannon Hart. ESF responded two minutes later when senior Heather Carl blasted a shot from the right side to even up the score. Carl scored again three minutes later off an assist from junior Shannon Gordinier. The Mighty Oaks piled on two more goals by Gordinier (22') and junior Natalee Wrege (32') to go up 4-1 at halftime. Junior Anna Bishop found the back of the net 15 minutes into the second half to push ESF's lead to 5-1. Hart answered for NHTI with a goal one minute later to make the score 5-2. Around the 80-minute mark of the second half, the teams exchanged quick goals. When the dust final settled, the Mighty Oaks came away with a 7-4 win. ESF outshot the Lynx 18-12 and had an 11-0 advantage on corner kicks.

In the second game of pool play, the women faced the No. 11 seed, Johnson and Wales - Charlotte. The Wildcats entered the tournament with an 8-10 record. Johnson and Wales scored first when sophomore Danielle Doyle found the back of the net 16 minutes into the first half. Freshman Taylor Helms assisted on the goal. ESF countered with a goal by Wrege, her second of the tournament, assisted by Gordinier. The score was tied at the half, 1-1. In the second half, freshman Alyssa Hughes broke the tie with a goal at the 66th minute. Carl added an insurance goal three minutes later, her fourth goal of the tournament, to give ESF a 3-1 edge and a victory. The Mighty Oaks outshot the Wildcats 31-14.

After winning its pool, the squad faced off against a familiar foe, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, in the semifinals. This was the second year in a row ESF faced the Panthers in the USCAA tournament. Last year, the Panthers defeated the Mighty Oaks, 1-0, in the semifinals to move onto the finals. This season, the Mighty Oaks had proved they could beat the Panthers, defeating them 2-1, in the HVIAC conference finals only two weeks earlier. As expected, the game was close and from the opening whistle. Wrege got ESF on the board at the 16-minute mark to give ESF an early lead. ESF continued its onslaught of shots on goal (29 shots on goal for the game vs. 7 for Albany Pharmacy). Gordinier gave ESF a cushion with a goal at the 81st minute of the second half. With that, ESF went on for the win.

In the national championship game, the Mighty Oaks faced the three-time defending champion, the University of Maine - Fort Kent.

The Bengals had an 18-0 record and feature a team of talented players, including junior Sherifatu Sumaila, who is a member of the Ghana women's national team. The Bengals faced off against ESF earlier this season and came away with a 4-2 win in one of their most competitive matches of the season.

As the championship game got underway, wet conditions from an earlier rainstorm made controlling the ball more difficult than usual. The Bengals attacked first, finding a few openings in the ESF defense but each shot was corralled by keeper Kiki Hilmer. The Mighty Oaks tried to find some early offense opportunities but were met by the Bengals' experienced back line. The Bengals opened up scoring at the 15-minute mark when senior Jennifer Cudjoe, a senior from Accra, Ghana, blasted the ball into the back left corner of the net from more than 20 yards out. The Might Oaks didn't lose their composure. They stayed on the attack and continued thwarting the Bengals' scoring chances. For most of the first half, the ball stayed primarily in the midfield. At the 35th minute, Bengals forward Sumaila broke away past an ESF defender and shot the ball past Hilmer to put UMFK up 2-0. The Mighty Oaks had a scoring chance off a free kick at the 38th minute but Carl's shot hit the Bengals' defense and was cleared out wide. At the half, the score was 2-0.

The Mighty Oaks came out with some pep in the second half. Gordinier put constant pressure on the Bengals' defenders helped to create a few scoring chances for ESF but the Mighty Oaks were not able to convert. The Bengals have scored 23 goals in three games (averaging close to seven goals a game) in this year's tournament but could not open up the score vs. a solid Mighty Oaks defense. The teams traded possession for most of the second half with neither squad generating any major scoring opportunities.

The final score was 2-0 in a well-balanced and well-played game, making the Mighty Oaks women's soccer team the 2016 USCAA National Champion runner up. The team finished the season with a 15-3-1 overall record.

"I am incredibly proud of this team. They held their own against a very technical and talented Maine team. This is the furthest we've ever gotten as a program, these girls deserve every bit of credit that can be given " said Women's Head Coach Dan Ramin.

Men's Soccer
The Mighty Oaks men's soccer team ended its season as a No. 8 seed in the USCAA tournament. The team had one loss and one win at nationals and did not advance out of pool play.

The team headed to the national tournament after winning the HVIAC conference tournament and amassing a 10-4-1 record. In their first game in pool play, the Mighty Oaks faced a big challenge from the No. 1 seed and defending national champions, University of Maine - Fort Kent. The Bengals jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half after two goals by senior Ben Kluvers. At the start of the second half, the Bengals continued the onslaught, scoring three goals in a three-minute span, pushing the score up to 5-0. Senior Zack Reda scored ESF's lone goal at the 71st minute. The final score was 7-1.

The defeat meant the team would not advance out of pool play but the team laced up to face St. Joseph's College of Vermont in the final game of the season. St. Joseph's came in as the No. 11 seed with a 12-6 overall record. The opening half was scoreless; ESF had several shots on goal but could not find the back of the net. Junior Rosyvelt Baessa broke the scoring drought with a goal for the Saints at the 60th minute mark. ESF countered less than a minute later when junior JC Barrientos locked in a goal to even up the score 1-1. Possession was balanced for most of the second half as the game went into overtime. Neither team scored in the first overtime. At the 101st minute of the second overtime, Barrientos caught a pass from freshman Joseph Kulikowski and blasted it past the Saints' keeper, giving ESF the win to end its season.

"This team played with incredible heart and passion all this season. With the odds against them on many occasions, this team never game up and always fought until the very end," said Ramin, the head coach.

Men's and Women's Cross Country
Under ideal race conditions, the ESF women's cross-country team finished fourth in the USCAA national championships. Sophomore Marissa Lathrop finished first for the Mighty Oaks, 15th overall, with a time of 24:19 in the 6K race. Lathrop's top 20 finish earned her second team All-American honors. Lathrop finished first for the Mighty Oaks in every race this season. Sophomore Erin Cuddihy placed 23rd with a time of 24:47. Talented freshman Eden Zickler, the HVIAC Rookie of the Year, finished 24th with a time of 24:48. Senior Samantha Hollister was 26th place with a time of 24:54. The championship race featured 29 teams and more than 150 runners. Cleary University of Michigan was the overall team winner while Julie Johnson of Florida College was the individual first-place winner.

The men's team placed fifth overall in the championship race. SUNY Delhi was the overall team winner. Senior Michael Persson finished his ESF career with a 14th-place finish (26:48), earning him Second Team All-American honors. Junior Dana Carris finished 20th overall (27:19). Junior Ryan Shaw came in 33rd (28:09) while sophomore Ethan Appelgren placed 37th (28:09). Isaiah Dodson of Berea College was the individual winner of the 8K race that featured 171 runners and 30 teams.

"I want to congratulate each runner for all their dedication and hard work this season. I am very proud of the results this year. Our team earned it and deserves it," said Head Coach John View.