The Gillette College women’s soccer team waited a long time to take the field for the first time at the NJCAA Division I National Championship Tournament.
But it was worth the wait as the Pronghorns picked up a 4-1 victory against CCBC Essex Tuesday night at Orlando Health Stadium at Eastern Florida State College.
“For us, this is huge,” Gillette College head coach Nate Ulness said. “We have had a landmark season for a third-year program. Hats off to the girls for the work they have put in both on and off the field.”
CCBC Essex got off to a strong start with a couple of strong looks but it was the Pronghorns who struck first 14 minutes into the contest as Jaycie Greene made a cross and Emma Jarvis came storming toward the goal and buried it for her 15th goal of the season.
Less than five minutes later defender Sarah Williams hit a free kick from 45 yards out to give Gillette College a 2-0 lead.
“I have a strong leg. I knew I could score from there because I have done it before so I just took the shot, luckily I made it!” Williams said.
20 minutes into the second half the Pronghorns would make it 3-0 as Kelsey Hogan crossed it to Karlie Valdez who chipped it into the top of the net.
CCBC Essex would cut into the lead with 17 minutes remaining as Katie Dietrich scored her 52nd goal of the season.
But three and a half minutes later Liliana Hernandez would score on a penalty kick to give the Pronghorns a three-goal lead once again.
“It feels good to finally play,” Williams said. “We just wanted to come out and show what we can do and we did that.”
The Pronghorns (20-4) will face host Eastern Florida State College Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the final Pool B game with the winner advancing to the semifinals of the national tournament. CCBC Essex was eliminated with the loss.
“Now we have to prepare for the host school, a really good Eastern Florida team. We got to watch them last night and they can play soccer. We want to go out and match them and we want to give them a game,” Ulness said. “The first 10 minutes I think they were a little star struck at times. They adapted well, swallowed the fear and played Pronghorn soccer and 20 players got out there and played well.”