Morgan Burchhardt is the bridge between the present and the past for The College of Saint Rose women’s soccer team. That’s why it was only fitting that she scored the game-winning goal as the Golden Knights advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four.
Burchhardt, a sixth-year senior from Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, ripped a 35-yard free kick past Bloomsburg goalie Jessica Hawkins to give CSR a 2-0 lead with 8.4 seconds left in the first half, and the Golden Knights held on for a 2-1 victory over the Huskies in the national quarterfinals Sunday afternoon at Afrim’s Sports Park.
Burchhardt is the only Saint Rose player who was a member of the team the last time it made the Final Four in 2014. She received two medical redshirts following two knee injuries.
“I’ve been waiting five years for this,” Burchhardt said. “I’m so happy we’re there. It’s one more chance and one more game. A little more special for me, because I’m a senior, and I have one more shot at it. This is incredible. I’ve endured a lot over the years, especially with my knees. To contribute any way possible is all I wanted to do.”
Saint Rose head coach Laurie Darling Gutheil was pulling for her leader.
“Morgan’s free-start goal was brilliant,” Gutheil said. “You won’t see a better finish on a goal by anyone, anywhere. She’s been working with me for five years to get this team back. If she got an opportunity, she was going to bury it, because she wants it so badly. That’s why we all got a chance to enjoy it.”
Gutheil said Burchhardt’s hard work paid off for her and her team. “She had a tough first surgery. A lot of players would not have come back from that, because it was so difficult," Gutheil said. “She has perseverance, a love for the game, and her work ethic is so outstanding. That’s why she’s such an exemplary leader, and that’s why she has such determination in everything she does.”
Saint Rose opened the scoring on a perfect pass from Nina Predanic, the Northeast-10 Conference and D2CAA East Region Player of the Year, to freshman Olivia Boucher nine minutes into the game.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Boucher said. “We pushed so hard this entire season, since August. We sat down in preseason and made a list of goals. To make it this far is absolutely phenomenal.”
Boucher knew what to do when she received Predanic’s crossing pass in stride. “I saw Nina got the ball, and Coach always tells me to make those pocket runs .I put my left foot out, and it hit the back of the net,” Boucher said. “Nina is a great player. I’m happy I got to score that goal. Having Nina on the team gives you that sense of security and being able to trust a player like her is over the top.”
“This means absolutely everything,” Predanic added. “I’m just so happy. My emotions are blowing up. We are tired. It was a physical game, but I’m very happy to be going to the Final Four. It’s the sweetest. We’ve been working on this for the last four years.”
Saint Rose junior goalie Marika Laurendeau was relatively untested in the first half, when the Knights held a 10-4 lead in shots on goal, but the Huskies (18-3-1) put the pressure on in the second half, especially after Lauren Hoelke scored on a penalty kick after CSR player was called with a hand ball in the box.
“My role is to try to keep my team in the game,” Laurendeau said. “I’m happy I was able to do that. We were ready. We were expecting long shots from anywhere in the second half. I’m always looking at the clock, to make sure we get the ball cleared. I can see the whole field from my perspective. You have to be ready for anything toward the end of the game.”
The 21-2-1 Golden Knights advance to the national semifinals on Thursday in Pittsburgh. It will be the Golden Knights’ seventh trip to the semifinals. They won the national title in 2014.
Saint Rose 2, Bloomsburg 1
Bloomsburg 0 1 — 1
Saint Rose 2 0 — 2
Bloomsburg scoring: Hoelke 1-0. Saint Rose scoring: Boucher 1-0, Predanic 0-1, Burchhardt, 1-0. Goalies: Bloomsburg, Hawkins, 1 save; Spingler, 2 saves; Saint Rose, Laurendeau, 2 saves.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected] or @BobWeiner58 on Twitter.