POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. - With the MAAC regular season championship hanging in the balance the Marist women's soccer came out and shut down a dangerous Rider squad, who came into Sunday with a 5-2-1 mark in conference play and a bid in the MAAC tournament on the line. Senior Caitlin Landsman (Burke, Va.) led the defense with a shutout, while sophomore Amanda Epstein (Jericho, N.Y.) scored her fifth game-winning goal in seven games to give Marist the 1-0 win.
With their seventh shutout of 2012, the Red Foxes earned the 2012 MAAC Regular Season title, number one seed in the upcoming MAAC Tournament and a program-best 14th win.
In a game dictated by the elements, as strong swirling winds wreaked havoc throughout, the first half was evenly matched as both Marist (14-6, 8-1 MAAC) and Rider (10-4-3, 5-3-1) registered six shots. The Red Foxes' defense stifled Rider's best two scoring opportunities in the period as senior Chelsea Botta (East Longmeadow, Mass.) cleared a cross away that the Broncs had chipped over the top and set up an on-coming attacker, while Caitlin Landsman leapt and punched away a 20-yard rocket off of the foot of Jennifer Meier over the cross bar.
Marist's best chance of the first half was an attempt by junior Alycia Cartica (Pleasant Valley, N.Y.) that rang off of the cross bar in the 37th minute.
Coming out in the second half with the game 0-0, the Red Foxes took little time breaking the deadlock as just 1:27 into the period, Epstein collected a deflected ball 25 yards from goal and danced and juked around a pair of Rider defenders before unleashing a laser from just inside the 18-yard box into the lower left corner of the goal. This was her seventh score of the season.
Now with a 1-0 lead, the Red Foxes locked in on Rider's two biggest threats Abi Cottam and Jennifer Meier even more and held both without a shot over the final 43 minutes.
With the Broncs seemingly neutralized on offense, it was up to Marist to continue playing hard and smart defensively, while take occasional peeks into the offensive third every so often. In the 56th minute, the senior duo of Landsman and Jackie Frey (Monroe, N.Y.) nearly put the Red Foxes up two goals, when Landsman hit a high looping punt that faded with the help of the wind towards the left wing, where a sprinting Frey collected it and took off toward Rider's goal. Pressure from a Bronc defender would push Frey's attempt just wide of the net.
The teams would combine for two total shots in the final 25 minutes.
As the scoreboard ticked down towards zero, an enthusiastic Marist team and fan-base would explode with the final whistle as they had just witnessed history in the form of the Red Foxes' second consecutive MAAC Regular Season title, as well as win number 14, the most ever in a single season.
For the game, Marist outshot Rider 11-7; both teams would register four shots on goal. Landsman earned her third individual shutout of the season and ninth of her career with four saves. Epstein's 47th minute marker would hold on as the game-winning goal, her second in a row and fifth in seven games.
The top-seeded Red Foxes will take on Iona in the MAAC Semifinals on Friday, Nov. 2. Slated to begin at 7 p.m., this will be the second game of a semifinal doubleheader, following a 5 p.m. matchup of #2 Fairfield and #3 Loyola.