By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
The Colonial Athletic Association playoffs began on Friday, Nov. 5 as the Hofstra University women's soccer team looked to bring its stellar play from the regular season to the postseason for its conference semifinal match up against Georgia State University.
After James Madison University advanced to the final by defeating George Mason University in penalty kicks in the early game, the Pride and Panthers began to settle some unfinished business.
In their prior meeting two weeks earlier, Hofstra won a thriller in overtime when junior midfielder Courtney Breen headed in the game winner five minutes into the first period of extra time for a 3-2 victory.
Just one minute and thirty seconds into the game, it did not look like this match would be as close as it was a few weeks before.
After GSU junior goalkeeper Kellianne Collins took down Hofstra senior midfielderTiffany Yovino in the box, sophomore defender Amy Turner stepped up and converted her penalty shot for the early 1-0 lead.
"It was perfect," said Hofstra head coach Simon Riddiough. "The fact that we scored an early goal made them [Georgia State] think about adjusting their strategy a little bit and we did a fantastic job to get on them early."
Georgia State however did manage to settle down, as the Hofstra attack was not able to find a second goal in the first half even though it had the 15-2 advantage in shots.
The Pride was nearly burned in the second half when two Georgia State attacks came within inches of tying the game.
Midway through the second half, GSU senior midfielder Apryl Goodwin was able to take on and beat two Hofstra defenders, as she was alone with freshman goalkeeper Emily Morphitis. Morphitis came off of her line, slid in and held on to relieve the Hofstra back line for just a bit because three minute later, Goodwin was back in the box to wreak havoc.
With the GSU attack gaining momentum, Goodwin was able to get her head on the end of a cross six yards from goal, but once again, it was Morphitis who was positioned perfectly to save the shot and get the Pride back on track.
"It was a bit nerve wracking for the first fifteen minutes of the second half," said Morphitis. "I'd rather not be that busy. But it was and I try to keep myself on my toes and switched on so if anything like that did happen I was ready."
The stonewall set up by the freshman keeper helped settle down the Pride as senior forward Salma Tarik and junior forward Laura Greene took center stage at Hofstra Soccer Stadium.
In the sixty-fifth minute, Greene made a run down the right hand side of the pitch and delivered a cross to the far post where Tarik was there to meet it with a diving header.
Tarik's eleventh goal of the season doubled the Hofstra lead and brought relief to the CAA regular season champions.
"It was a big relief going up 2-0," said Tarik. "It's not the greatest lead in soccer, but it definitely gives us momentum to keep pushing forward."
Pushing forward was exactly what the Pride did as the Greene/Tarik connection was alive and well when Greene delivered another cross from the right that found the head of Tarik who turned it into the back of the net for her second of the game in the seventy-fifth minute.
"It's definitely amazing to play with her [Greene]," said Tarik. "Usually as a forward you may not know where the other forward is going to go, but with each other, we know where we are going to go."
The two quick goals gave the Pride a 3-0 lead and stamped its ticket to the CAA finals where it will be taking on James Madison on Sunday.
"JMU is a good team and they gave us a good battle [the team's last meeting]," said Riddiough. "But if we have Salma and Greene playing like how they did tonight, they're not stopping us. And it's just a matter of if we can stop their special players we will beat JMU if we play like we did tonight."