ALBANY — It’s only in the last week that midfielder Lauren Amerena started taking corner kicks for the College of Saint Rose women’s soccer team.
“I’ve only just started taking corners,” Amerena said. “It wasn’t really my specialty.”
It hasn’t taken long for that move to pay major dividends for the Golden Knights.
Sunday afternoon at the Plumeri Sports Complex, Amerena perfectly teed up a 36th-minute corner kick that defender Sanna Rein headed past Southern Connecticut State goalkeeper Allie Smith for the only goal in Saint Rose’s 1-0 victory in the championship game of the Northeast-10 conference tournament.
The win gave No. 2 seed Saint Rose (15-1-3 overall) its second-straight conference tournament title — the Golden Knights won in 2019, with no tournament held last year due to the coronavirus pandemic — and a ninth conference crown since 2007.
“The culture of excellence is something that we pride ourselves in,” Saint Rose coach Laurie Darling Gutheil said. “Teaching these young women how you have to do everything correctly so that you can have these moments.”
With the title comes an automatic berth into the NCAA Division II playoffs. The Golden Knights, ranked No. 8 nationally, will learn their draw for the tournament on Monday at 6 p.m.
“Our goal is to get to Colorado Springs [for the national championship],” Amerena said. “We want to win. We’ve been working hard. Every sprint over the summer that we did is for this.
“This is just the first step, really.”
Amerena’s assist on Sunday capped off a performance that earned her the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. The sophomore from Shoreham by Sea, England had two goals and three assists in the Golden Knights’ three-game run to the title.
When Amerena lined up to take the corner kick that led to Sunday’s winning goal, she knew exactly what she was aiming for.
“I always look for Rein,” Amerena said.
After all, Rein — a junior from Finland — had scored the winning goal on a corner kick against Southern Connecticut State in the Northeast-10 tournament final game two years ago, too.
“I was hesitating at first — should I go, should I not? — and I went in,” Rein said. “Headed into the back of the net, and it felt amazing. It’s a kind of speechless moment. Same happened in 2019, which feels even more great.”
Saint Rose controlled most of the game against a Southern Connecticut State team that handed the Golden Knights their lone regular-season loss. Freshman forward Mia Klammer generated a number of dangerous chances during the second half, but was unable to produce an insurance goal.
That led to a couple of nervous moments as the Golden Knights protected their lead down the stretch, most notably a looping header inside of a minute to play that forced Saint Rose goalie Marika Laurendeau — who also made a key diving save on SCSU’s Kaitlyn D’Amico early in the second half — into a full stretch to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Laurendeau left last Sunday’s quarterfinal game against Adelphi with an injury late in the first half and didn’t play the entirety of Thursday’s semifinal win against Saint Anselm.
“We knew from that save,” Darling Gutheil said, “that she’s back.”
That Sunday’s win provided a measure of comeuppance against the one team to hand them a mark in the loss column is a feat that wasn’t lost on the Golden Knights.
“The whole game,” freshman defender Jada Brown said, “we were coming for revenge.”
Halftime score: Saint Rose led 1-0. Southern Connecticut State scoring: None. Saint Rose scoring: Rein 1-0, Amerena 0-1. Goalies: Southern Connecticut State, Smith, 7 saves. Saint Rose, Laurendeau, 5 saves.