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St. Francis wins NEC Title, punches ticket to NCAA's

After three years of waiting, the Northeast Conference Women's Soccer Championship trophy is back home in Sweet Loretto.

Saint Francis U dominated its postseason nemesis LIU Brooklyn in every major statistical category, but had to buckle down to earn a, 1-0, on Sunday at the Stokes Soccerplex.

The Red Flash held the edge in shots (16-2), shots on goal (8-2) and corner kicks (6-2), but the difference was senior forward Tesa McKibben (Cogan Station, Pa./Montoursville)'s game-winner in the 71st minute.

McKibben took a centering pass from Barbara Maros de Carvalho (Sao Paulo, Brazil/Colegio Sagrado Coraco de Jesus), cut back, and stuck from five yards out to put SFU on top to stay.  The goal, McKibben's 20th of the season and the 70th in her five seasons in Red & White, pushed her career points total to an NCAA-leading 180.

"LIU always organizes very well against us and that is a credit to them," said Saint Francis coach Brenda van Stralen.  "You just have to keep putting yourself in a position to score and we did that today.  It doesn't matter if you score one goal or five, you just have to keep creating opportunities."

"Now its time to party."

Thanks to a lock-down defensive effort led by seniors Alecia McNiff (Marietta, Pa./Donegal ) and Laura Stayrook (Johnstown, Pa./Richland), McKibben's marker was all Saint Francis would need to clinch its first NEC title and NCAA Women's College Cup berth since 2010.

Stayrook and McNiff both earned all-tournament honors after teaming up to help post the shutout.  McNiff joined Chelsea Traurig as the second NEC Tournament MVP in program history.

McKibben, Maros de Carvalho and Ellie Gavin (Hilliard, Ohio/Bishop Watterson) were also named the all-tournament team.

The Red Flash will learn their draw in the opening round of 2013 Women's College Cup at 4:30 p.m. on Monday.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times