ALBANY — Taylor Gray is, by her own admission, normally a bundle of nerves when she enters a game.
That should’ve been compounded Sunday afternoon at the Plumeri Sports Complex when the College of Saint Rose backup goalkeeper was pressed into action with three minutes left in the first half of a Northeast-10 women’s soccer tournament quarterfinal against Adelphi when starter Marika Laurendeau was forced to exit after landing on her tailbone following a collision in front of the goal.
As it turned out, Gray’s nerves were just fine.
“The nerves were a bit extreme, but I’m pretty proud of myself for handling it as well as I did,” Gray said. “I didn’t expect myself to do that well, in all honesty, because I tend to be very nervous.”
Gray made a pair of second-half saves and kept things organized for the Golden Knights’ defense despite dealing with plenty of pressure from Adelphi while spending the entire second half looking into the sun, helping Lauren Amerena’s 11th-minute goal stand up as Saint Rose pulled out a 1-0 win to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Saint Rose (No. 2 seed, 13-1-3 overall) will next host sixth-seeded Saint Anselm in the semifinals on Thursday. Saint Anselm knocked off No. 3 seed Bentley in the quarterfinals of Sunday, part of an upset-filled day of action that also saw No. 1 seed Southern New Hampshire beaten by No. 8 Southern Connecticut.
Southern New Hampshire’s loss means that Saint Rose, ranked eighth nationally, will host the tournament final if they defeat Saint Anselm.
Saint Rose’s winning margin on Sunday was delivered early, with Janina Mueller playing in a cross that Amerena was able to touch past Adelphi (No. 7 seed, 7-6-3) goalkeeper Sarah Hofmeier.
“It was fantastic,” Saint Rose coach Laurie Darling Gutheil said. “It certainly allowed us to take more of a look at our defensive shape and not getting caught in transition. We didn’t have to push as far forward at times, so we didn’t give them looks.”
The Golden Knights advanced less than 24 hours after the program celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its greatest accomplishment, its 2011 NCAA Division II national championship.
“We’ve had a lot of our former players back. It was just an incredible evening,” Darling Gutheil said. “A lot of them came today. Really, really special for everyone involved.”
Halftime score: Saint Rose led 1-0. Adelphi scoring: None. Saint Rose scoring: Amerena 1-0, Mueller 0-1. Goalies: Adelphi, Hofmeier, 3 saves. Saint Rose, Gray, 2 saves, Laurendeau, 2 saves.