Gannon kept its perfect season going Tuesday night, though the Golden Knights made their fans a bit nervous.
Mani Brueckner, the team’s star all year, knocked in the game-winning goal with just over 12 minutes left to give the Golden Knights their first win at California (Pa.) this century, a 1-0 victory that kept Gannon the only unbeaten, untied team in NCAA soccer.
With the win, the BR-10 Knights improved to 17-0 overall and 15-0 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference with one game remaining to play this Friday at BR-82 East Stroudsburg – where Gannon has never won – before starting PSAC tournament play. The Golden Knights have already locked up the top seed in the tourney.
California (8-6-3, 7-5-3 PSAC), which hadn’t lost at home to Gannon since 1998, badly needed a better result. The BR-104 Vulcans go into the final weekend of the season in ninth place in the PSAC – while the top eight teams in the conference will make the league tournament. Cal plays its final game Saturday at home against Lock Haven.
The loss was the first for the Vulcans in five matches.
Gannon controlled play for most of the match, but the Golden Knights couldn’t break through until midway through the second half – after Cal had lost two defensive starters to injuries.
Brueckner, who earlier this season broke the school record for total points in a season set by Amanda Sharbaugh in 2011, took a pass from Amanda Gallant and got off a close range shot to the bottom right that got by Cal goalkeeper Meghan Jayes. It was Brueckner’s 16th goal of the season, which leads the PSAC.
After Gannon scored, the Vulcans had one chance to equalize, but Francesca Scenna’s shot with just over three minutes to play was blocked.
Jayes made a career-high five saves in goal for the Vulcans.
Brueckner, a two-time PSAC Athlete of the Year, now has 130 career points. She was Gannon’s all-time assists leader before the season started, and now is one goal from matching Gannon’s career goals mark.
While they remain the only perfect team in any division of women’s NCAA soccer, it hasn’t been easy going of late. Gannon trailed Mercyhurst early in the crosstown rivalry game last week – just the third time all year the Golden Knights have found themselves behind. But Brueckner came through as she has so often, sparking a comeback with the equalizing goal.
Gannon’s dream season is all the more remarkable considering the team finished at .500 last year and has only been to the NCAA tournament twice, the last time in 2012.
Cal U. came into the game on a five game unbeaten streak including four straight road wins.