Bridgeport comes into its first Final Four this week but has been one of the strongest programs on the East Coast for years. It has gone more than a game into the NCAA a few times and made the Sweet 16 in 2008. The Purple Knights are 21-1-1 and defeated LIU Post, Adelphi and East Stroudsburg on their run to the semifinals. They haven’t lost since a Sept. 20 match at St. Edward’s during a tough Texas road swing, and the only other blemish on their record is a 1-1 draw with Roberts Wesleyan at the end of October. The Knights went the month of November giving up just one goal, the one they allowed in their 2-1 NCAA tournament win over Adelphi.
It’s been a harrowing run to the semis, though. In the second round Bridgeport needed Ariana Weingrad’s goal with less than a minute to play to beat LIU Post. Then in the regional final, Adelphi shut down Bridgeport’s leading scorer, Jess Laszlo and took a 1-0 lead – the first goal the Purple Knights had given up in the month of November. UB’s Lauren Mengel quickly tied the match, but it was coming down to the end again, when Nicola Worthington scored in the 81st minute to assure the season would continue.
“The entire playoffs have been an emotional roller coaster — the teams we defeated and how we defeated them,” Coach Magnus Nilerud said in a story on the NCAA website.
This is a tight group of women who play for each other. Noting that the Purple Knights have gone deep into the NCAA tournament before, Coach Magnus Nilerud said last week this is team, not a group of individuals.
“I think the way we’ve gotten here has been different,” Nilerud told WTNH TV in Connecticut. “That team (the 2008 Sweet 16 team) had better players, but this is a better team. We’re a very tight-knit group.”