NCAA Division III National Championship Game
College of New Jersey 2 Tufts 1

At Medford, Mass.
Date: Sunday, November 19, 2000

College of New Jersey (23-1) 1 1 = 2
Tufts (18-4-1) 0 1 = 1

SCORING: NJ, Denise Buckley (Gia Rosamilia) 8:59; T, Adie Sherwood (Jess Trombly) 76:22; NJ, Cara Gabage (Buckley, Lisa Pelligrino) 89:57.

SAVES: NJ, Victoria Nusse 3; T, Randee McArdle 6.


SHOTS: NJ, 21; T, 10.

MEDFORD – Sophomore Cara Gabage (Vineland, NJ) headed a loose ball into the goal with just three seconds remaining in regulation to give The College of New Jersey a dramatic 2-1 victory over Tufts University in the NCAA Division III Women's Soccer Championship Game on Sunday afternoon at Tufts.

With the 10-second countdown underway over the public address system, New Jersey junior Denise Buckley (Freehold, NJ) collected the ball at the left flank and was able to streak past the Tufts defense. Her cross was put on goal by Lion junior Lisa Pelligrino (Trenton, NJ). Tufts senior keeper Randee McArdle (East Nassau, NY) made a good stop, but could not smother the ball. Gabage headed it in for the last-second winner. It was the third game-winning goal of the NCAA Tournament for Gabage, including two third-overtime winners against Messiah and Ohio Wesleyan.

New Jersey (23-1) won its third NCAA National Championship. The Lions also won the 1993 and 1994 national titles under head coach Joe Russo. Tufts finished its best season ever with an 18-4-1 mark.

The Jumbos had controlled play for most of the second half and tied the score at 1-1 with 13 minutes remaining. New Jersey, which hadn't allowed a goal since October 1 (11 straight shutouts), was shaken by the consistent Tufts pressure on their goal, but were able to capitalize on one of their few counterattacks of the second half to win it.

"You couldn't ask for a better final," Russo said. "Of all the finals I've been to, this was the most well-played. Our team is so resilient. They've been to three straight final fours, so there's a fabric woven among them and I think that made the difference."

New Jersey got out to an early 1-0 lead when sophomore Gia Rosamilia (Parsippany, NJ) dropped a beautiful long ball at Buckley's feet. McArdle came out to challenge the play and Buckley lofted a shot over her that bounced into the cage for a 1-0 Lion lead nine minutes into the game. New Jersey continued to control play throughout the first half, posting an 11-3 advantage in shots and 5-0 in corners during the first 45 minutes.

The momentum completely switched in the second half. Fifteen minutes in, Tufts initiated a series of excellent scoring chances against the stingy Lion defense (0.08 goals against average entering the game). Their effort was rewarded when sophomore Adie Sherwood (Woodinville, WA) found open space in the box and redirected a pass from freshman Jess Trombly (Nashua, NH) that bounced past Lion senior keeper Victoria Nusse (Westfield, NJ) to tie the game at 76:22.

"We thought that if we could score, it might rattle them because they're not used to being scored on," Tufts coach Martha Whiting said. "But they are a great team and they persevered. We let them in at the wrong time and great teams take advantage of those opportunities."

New Jersey features a core of six seniors that have been to three straight final fours and now can call themselves National Champions.

"What a way for the seniors to go out," defender Linda Talarico (Manalapan, NJ) said. "Twenty years of soccer all came down to this weekend for a lot of us, so it's hard to describe how great it feels."

Buckley was selected as the final four Most Valuable Offensive Player after scoring the first goal versus Tufts and setting up the game-winner in OT versus Trinity University in the semi-finals yesterday. Goalkeeper Jill DiGiampaolo (Wichita Falls, TX) was the Defensive MVP after making 24 saves (second-most in NCAA Div. III Tournament history) in the semi-final loss to New Jersey. Senior Beth Hoeflinger (Somerset, NJ), Gabage, Buckley and senior Karen Geiger (Beachwood, NJ) were named to the All-Tournament team for New Jersey. Defender Carmen Mikacenic (Seattle, WA), junior Lynn Cooper (Wilton, CT) and Sherwood were the Tufts All-Tournament selections.