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ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. – Playing with 10 players for the entire second half, the St. Bonaventure women's soccer team overcame a halftime deficit and controlled the final 45 minutes to post a thrilling 2-1 victory over Rhode Island on a rainy, cold Sunday afternoon on a muddy McGraw-Jennings pitch to clinch its fifth straight Atlantic 10 Championship appearance.
The Bonnies entered the game knowing that they controlled their own destiny and a win would clinch a postseason berth. An official announcement of seeding for the eight-team A-10 Championship will be made by the league office later on Sunday, but the Bonnies are expected to receive the 5th seed and would face 4-seeded Butler on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
In a fitting ending, redshirt senior Shannon Van Riper headed home the game-winning goal in the 77th minute to send the Massachusetts native to her, and SBU's, fifth straight A-10 Championship.
Following a Rhode Island foul just outside the 18-yard box, Brittany Charles delivered a perfect set-piece ball into the box, where Van Riper – the tallest player on the field at 5-11 – used that height advantage to tuck her team-leading fifth goal of the campaign just inside the left side of the net.
Rhode Island – which is scheduled to host the A-10 Championship – entered the contest tied with the Bonnies for 6th place in the A-10 with 12 points, and knew that a win would likewise solidify a postseason trip. The Rams took the first step toward that mission with a Chelsea Gates goal in the 32nd minute. The goal was not only Gates first of the season, but it was her first shot on goal this year.
Things got more difficult for the Brown and White when sophomore Caitlin MacConnell picked up a red card in the 44th minute – just two minutes after picking up a yellow card – forcing the Bonnies to play with 10 the remainder of the contest.
Despite that, Bona controlled the game's final 45 minutes and eventually were able to tie the match in the 61st minute on Molly Curry's fourth goal of the season. URI goalkeeper Chelse Broghamer failed to elevate her goal kick enough on the sloppy field to get over the body of Brittany Charles, who blocked the ball just outside the 18-yard box. The ball deflected back into the middle of the box for Curry, who beat Broghamer to her right.
"To watch how hard our players played in the second half … I don't think I've ever been more impressed with a team that I've coached," head coach Manoj Khettry said. "In terms of effort, heart and character, that was fantastic."
The Bonnies out-shot Rhody 13-3 in the second half and finished with a 21-6 shot advantage for the game. Included in that total were three crossbars that SBU hit and two posts.
St. Bonaventure honored its five seniors – Van Riper, Maureen Madden, Nicole Rosso, Jennifer Andrews and Katie Kerkman – and one manager – Kelley Burke – prior to the contest. Andrews started the game in net, but was replaced by Kerkman after 26 minutes of action. Andrews made one save while in the game, and Kerkman stopped two en route to her fifth victory of the season.
More information on the A-10 Championship bracket and schedule will be available later on Sunday on GoBonnies.com.
GAME NOTES: MacConnell, who received her cards for what the referee deemed reckless challenges, is suspended for SBU's A-10 Championship opener … Bona held a 4-1 corner advantage … besides MacConnell's two cards, three others Bonnies received yellow cards, and two Rhody players were issued yellows … URI committed 15 fouls, while the Bonnies were whistled for six.