Manhattan made it to the MAAC Championship for the first time in school history. They had a season of broken records and high-ranked players, both in the league and nationally. In a game to represent the league in the NCAA tournament, however, it was the underdog that came out on top.
After earning the second seed and a first-round bye, Manhattan played fourth-seeded Rider on Friday night in the MAAC Semifinals. Lizzy Carlson notched two goals for the Jaspers and Modena sealed the win with a goal to make it a 3-1 final. Skonieczny had a career-high 15 saves in the game.
Going into the MAAC Championship, Manhattan looked for the win in their first appearance to the finals. Sixth-seeded Siena had previously won the championship in 2010. Manhattan had a lot in their favor, but Siena was on a roll after knocking out the 1st and 3rd seeds Monmouth and Marist to get to the finals.
Siena scored in the opening minute of the game on a shot from Allison Clark. Seven minutes later, Siena notched another goal by Kristen Connors and took a surprising 2-0 lead over Manhattan, who has been known for their defense all season.
“They took advantage of opportunities that we gave them,” Brendan Lawler, Manhattan head coach, said in a halftime interview with ESPN3. “We have to score goals. We know what we have to do. The objective is simple.”
Most of the first half was spent with Siena on offense. They followed in the 20th minute with their third goal of the game by Madison Vazquez, making it a 3-0 lead for Siena. Manhattan’s defense struggled early and throughout, as Manhattan’s back line could not control the game and goalkeeper Kristen Skonieczny allowed three goals on three shots.
Erica Modena, who led the game with 5 shots, notched Manhattan’s first goal of the game with help from Lauren Barton in the 29th minute. The offense picked up in the last few minutes of the first half, but the score remained 3-1 into halftime.
Momentum did not last long on Manhattan’s side as Siena found the back of the net once again on a shot from Kensey Waterman about three minutes into the second half. It remained 4-1 until Connors scored again for Siena in the 73rd minute of the game and Manhattan’s Emily Center soon followed with a goal in the 76th minute. There was back and forth play until the clock winded down and Siena took the 5-2 victory to the tournament.
Despite the loss, Manhattan had a season for the record books. Head coach Brendan Lawler was voted the Lids Team Sports MAAC Coach of the Year. Skonieczny was named Goalkeeper of the Year. Jenny Bitzer earned Defensive Player of the Year. Modena and Nicole Copping earned spots on the All-MAAC First Team and Copping also got All-Rookie honors.
Skonieczny notched a program-record 10 wins and nine shutouts this season, which was the best in the MAAC. She holds the school career records for wins and shutouts, 24 and 17. She led the MAAC and ranks fourth nationally with a .920 save percentage. She is fifth in the NCAA with a .43 GAA, with just four goals allowed against MAAC opponents.
Modena was another key player for the Jaspers this season. She notched her team-leading 12th goal of the season in the semifinal matchup against Rider. She ranked second in the MAAC and 41st nationally with her 12 goals, which are the most by a Manhattan player since Laurie Spera scored 14 in her freshman season in 1998. Modena also ranked second in the league and 89th nationally with her 26 assists on the season.
Finishing up this year’s awards, it was announced after the game that Skonieczny, Modena and Taylor Salkowsky were named to the MAAC All-Tournament Team.