Nov. 2, 2012
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Junior forward Paloma Perez (Mobile, Ala.) scored a hat trick and the Navy women's soccer team (19-1-1) advanced to the Patriot League Tournament final by defeating Lehigh (5-13-0), 4-1, in the league semifinals at Glenn Warner Soccer Facility Friday evening.
Top-seeded Navy will host No. 2 Colgate on Sunday at 2:00 PM for the Patriot League title and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Navy is in the league title game for the second straight year.
Perez scored all three of her goals in the second half and tied the Patriot League Tournament single-game scoring record with her first career hat trick. Perez is an All-Patriot League First-Team honoree.
"Paloma was fantastic tonight and our team gave a sound effort in some pretty tough weather conditions," said head coach Carin Gabarra, the Patriot League Coach of the Year. "We were able to get the ball up the field very well and we got better as the game went on. Our second-line players had some solid contributions as well. We are now looking forward to what should be a very competitive match against Colgate on Sunday."
Navy got a quick start to the contest on Friday as senior midfielder Brittany Fruin (McLean, Va.) found the back of the net just 5:02 into the game. Fruin picked off Lehigh's clear and moved in to fire a rocket on goal from 22 yards out that went to the far post.
The fourth-seeded Mountain Hawks then evened the game at 1-1 just before halftime. Lehigh sent a ball into the box off a free kick and a Navy defender got a foot on it and tried to clear it away but Murphee Greeley moved up to one-time the ball past goalkeeper Elizabeth Hoerner (Lititz, Pa.).
Perez then took over the game in the second half as she posted Navy's first hat trick since Brigitte Fox scored four goals in 2007.
Perez notched her first goal in the 49th minute, taking junior forward Ashlynn Soellner's (Hollidaysburg, Pa.) feed from the right side and finishing from the center of the box.
Soellner also keyed Perez's second goal in the 60th minute by sending a ball up the field to sophomore forward Morgan Dankanich (Glenmoore, Pa.), who then sent Perez through Lehigh's backline on a breakaway. As the Lehigh goalkeeper came out to try to break up the play, Perez tapped a chip shot past the oncoming keeper and into the empty net.
Dankanich also assisted on Perez's third goal of the game in the 80th minute. Lehigh was trying to clear the ball out of its box but Dankanich deflected a pass right to Perez, who stepped up and blasted a shot to the upper 90 of the far post.
Perez now has eight goals and eight assists this season for 24 points. Soellner leads the team with 29 points and Dankanich is second with 26. Navy's 55 goals scored this season are the third-most in program history.
Besides Perez, the only other player to score a hat trick in a Patriot League Tournament game was Army's Alexis Albano, who achieved the feat in 1993.
With Dankanich and Soellner each tallying two assists, the duo also tied a Patriot League Tournament record of two assists in a single game.
Hoerner made six saves to improve her season record to 17-1-1. Hoerner is the 2012
Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year and the Patriot League Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Hoerner was aided on the defensive end by sophomore Jade Seabrook (St. Paris, Ohio), who was recognized before Friday's game for being named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year.
Navy outshot Lehigh 20-11 and held a 9-7 edge in shots on goal. Navy also led 6-4 in corner kicks.
Navy's 19 wins are the most in the nation this season and the second-most in program history. The Mids also extended the nation's longest unbeaten streak to 20 games (19-0-1).
Colgate defeated American, 3-0, in the first semifinal on Friday. Navy is 1-0-2 against Colgate in their last three meetings and the two teams tied 1-1 in Hamilton, N.Y. on October 12.
Navy will be seeking its fourth league title and its fourth NCAA Tournament berth on Sunday.
Parking and Shuttle Information for Sunday
All fans without a Department of Defense sticker on their vehicle must park outside of the U.S. Naval Academy grounds. Fans may park at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for $5. Free shuttle buses will run every 10 minutes between Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility. The shuttle buses will start running one hour before the game, throughout the game and for one hour after the game is complete.