Women's soccer clinches postseason berth in must-win game

The Patriots, led by junior Tiana Kallenberger, defeated the Towson Tigers Saturday afternoon, 2-0, to end the regular season and to lock up the No. 3 seed in the CAA Championship (John Powell).

With an exclamation mark, the George Mason women’s soccer team came out the victor Saturday afternoon in a must-win game against the Towson Tigers to lock up a playoff berth. The Patriots (8-6-5, 5-3-3) started the game at seventh in the conference standings, just one place out of the playoffs, setting up a real push to make the postseason.

The Tigers’ (9-10-0, 4-7-0) hopes were decimated by the early result of the day when Hofstra took a 3-0 win over Northeastern, pushing the Tigers out of contention. They won five of their last six games, but it was too little too late. The Hofstra result flattened their attack, but Mason responded with gusto.

Scoring chances kept coming for the Patriots, but they were unable to put one in the back of the net in the early going as the Towson defensive line moved in sync around the goal. But the green and gold offense was relentless until junior forward Tiana Kallenberger took a shot on goal. Tiger goalkeeper Erin Quinn could not hang on the ball, leaving freshman forward Liz Hodges in perfect position to clean up the shot, accounting for the game-winning goal.

The Tigers responded with urgency in the remaining 13 minutes of the half, but could not get any traction on the soggy, snow-covered playing surface.

At the 50-minute mark, the cold-weather game became heated very quickly. The Towson bench was yellow carded over a foul call, Kallenberger was carded over a trip and Tiger Kaysi Ward took the final card of the streak.

But the Patriots kept their poise.

Winding down to the final minutes of the match, Mason kept up their offensive attack. Despite getting their fourth offsides foul called against them, they worked the ball into the corner and came up with a corner kick.

Jasmin Cardoso curved the ball toward the goal and with a defensive deflection, Kallenberger punched the ball to the back of the net for the exclamation-point score.

Sophomore goalkeeper Lyndse Hokanson picked up her fourth clean sheet of the year with two saves in the match.

“She did a good job of clearing balls, and that is not easy in the weather,” Mason head coach Diane Drake said. “A lot of kids couldn’t serve balls […] Lyndse, although she was standing in the goal the whole time, she still had the ability to clear the ball and play the ball.”

William & Mary sits at the top of the conference with a 10-1 CAA record and home-field advantage throughout the tournament. So the Patriots travel to Williamsburg, Va. as the No. 3 seed in the tournament. They take on the Northeastern Huskies at 5 p.m. Thursday. With a win, they take on the No. 2 VCU Rams in the first Friday semifinal. The championship takes place on Sunday at 1 p.m., with the winner advancing to the NCAA women’s soccer tournament.

“The last game, it was an enigma. It was a weird game. They were a good team, I’m not discrediting that, but we did not play well,” Drake said. “For us, I always believed we’d be able to get back in.”

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