Rowan women’s soccer advances to final in penalty-kick frenzy

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It took everything and nearly everyone the No. 23 ranked Rowan women’s soccer team had — and a penalty shootout — to come out on top in the New Jersey Athletic Conference semifinal and advance on to the final.

Both goalies saw action in the shootout and junior forward Shannon Reardigan blasted in the game-winning attempt as second-seeded Rowan edged third-seeded Montclair State University in penalty kicks, 4-2, on Wednesday night.

“It was awesome. I mean, I think we deserved to win that hands down,” Reardigan said. “We worked so hard. Everyone believed in everyone.”

Even with the pace of play in their favor arguably from the second period on, the team certainly kept it tense.

What’s a playoff game without a little drama? Or, in this case, a lot.

“I didn’t necessarily want to be called on because I wanted to get that over with but I’m happy I could help the team. It was really what I wanted to do,” said goalkeeper Courtney Simpson, who got the nod in net for the penalty kicks.

The sophomore made two huge saves during the set in relief of starter Shelby Money. With a stop on the Redhawks’ second shot, Simpson cut down Montclair’s initial advantage of kicking first.

The subbing didn’t signal the end of the night for Money, whose three saves from the first period to the second overtime kept Rowan fighting. Instead, she stepped up to rip home the team’s third penalty-kick goal with a strong left foot.

“I can’t think about it so I just have to hit it,” Money said. “That’s what I have to do, if not I miss the target.”

And yes, the two-goalie set up was part of the plan coming in.

“It’s something you have to practice at this time of year. We spend a little bit of time, we don’t spend a ton of time on it,” head coach Scott Leacott said. “We had a gut feeling putting Courtney in. She reads it a little bit better. Not that Shelby’s not good at it but Shelby’s also good at taking them.”

There was no shortage of chances for Rowan to take the lead or even seal the win with the clock running out in the second half and overtime periods. But none of the team’s shots — 23 to the Redhawks’ 9 — were successful. Montclair goalie Molly Barrow deserves some of the credit, punching away or snatching some tough shots from right outside the box.

“It was definitely frustrating but it definitely kept us into it and going,” said junior forward Melissa Kelly. “It was more pushing us to keep trying to score.”

Kelly had the first PK tally for the Profs, followed up by one from senior forward Maxine New.

It doesn’t get any easier now for Rowan in the NJAC Championship, a game that offers the team a shot at redemption against the top seed.

The brown and gold return to Ewing, New Jersey, on Saturday to face No. 5 The College of New Jersey, which handed Rowan its first loss to close out the regular-season schedule.

“I don’t think they saw our best effort offensively, so we’re hoping to put a lot more pressure on them this time,” Leacott said. “But it’s going to be another tight battle like this and it always will be.”

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