by Tom Utescher

Chestnut Hill College hoped to pull off an upset in last Wednesday night’s women’s soccer match against the defending champ in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, but over the first 50 minutes the host Griffins gave up three answered goals to visiting Georgian Court University.

CHC high scorer Lauren Riiff (#9) wins a head ball from a Georgian Court rival as sophomore Steph Litty (left) looks on. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

CHC outscored the Lions 2-1 over the last 22 minutes, but the central New Jersey squad still made off with a 4-2 victory that dropped the Griffins’ record below the .500 mark both in the CACC (1-2) and overall (3-4).

The local booters had been amped up to take on the reigning titleholders in the conference, but shortly before the contest Chestnut Hill’s emotional edge was dulled when the club received the news that tri-captain Shannon Catts, a defensive mainstay, was out for the season with a knee injury. After going airborne for a head ball in an earlier game, the junior made a bad landing on her right leg and damaged the ACL and meniscus.

Georgian Court, which had surprised several higher seeds to win the CACC tournament in 2010, brought a 1-2 conference record to Chestnut Hill’s Victory Field last week. The Griffins had a slim advantage in the shot column in the opening period, but came away empty while the Lions converted two of their attempts.

Amber Schlosser broke the ice for the visitors less than 10 minutes in. Although her squad logged a lot of ball possession throughout the remainder of the first half, it looked as though the Griffins would still be just one goal behind when the intermission arrived. In the final minute, the Lions staged a mass attack and from a crowd in front of the Griffins’ goal Amanda Szewczyk put GCU up 2-0 heading into the huddle.

First-year CHC coach Sandy Dickson had seen her charges outscore their two previous opponents by a total of 10-2.

“We’ve been creating things up top, but today I thought we were a little indecisive in the back and we ended up letting in a few goals that probably shouldn’t have gone in,” she observed. “You can’t do that against a quality team in your conference.”

With Catts already sidelined by injury, Chestnut Hill had freshman midfielder Lauren Bjorke go down during Wednesday’s match.

After Georgian Court came close to taking a 3-0 lead at the start of the second stanza, the Griffins came back up the field and senior forward Lauren Riiff launched an outside shot from the left that grazed the crossbar. The Lions got their third goal soon after that. An initial shot was blocked but Schlosser swooped in to knock the ball into the net with five-and-a-half minutes elapsed in the new half.

Chestnut Hill mounted a determined assault as the middle of the period approached. Sophomore forward Carly DiGiovanni had a near miss at the right post just after the clock dipped under 25 minutes left to play, and athen the Griffins got on the board at 22:58. On a restart out in the left side of the penalty area Steph Litty tapped the ball to fellow sophomore Kaelyn Pizarro, who blasted it past the GCU wall and into the right side of the cage.

Five minutes later the Lions had three-point lead once more, thanks to a looping corner by Farrell Pomponio. CHC netted the final goal of the evening with 13:19 showing, as Riiff carried the ball into the box from the left wing and nailed the far side of the net.

The Griffins repulsed a charge by the Lions with under five minutes to go, with a first GCU shot striking the crossbar and a follow-up ball getting turned away by Jessica Veazey, Chestnut Hill’s junior goalie. She and Lions’ keeper Shealyn Sullivan each finished with four saves.

We showed good fight and we played the full 90 minutes,” remarked CHC’s Dickson. “That’s always a good thing in the long run, so I’m glad we built a little character in that department.”

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