Both Emerson College and Norwich University went into their game on Saturday, April 18 undefeated in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, with the winner set to receive the number one seed and home-field advantage in the conference tournament.
For the Lions, it was a game they were building up to and working towards the entire season, and they completed their mission, defeating the Cadets 16-13.
"I'm excited. We have a great chance to win the championship," said junior co-captain Meghan Robinson. "The entire season has been about Norwich and we all knew how serious the game was."
In the practices leading up to the showdown, Emerson slightly altered its practice routine to get them more acclimated to a game environment.
"We did some sprinting before our practice," said sophomore co-captain Maeghan Ross. "It helped make it feel more game-like because we were all a little tired from the sprints."
The match was tightly contested, and early on it looked like Emerson was going to fall short of victory, going down 9-5 at the end of the first half.
"We had a rough start for the first 10 to 15 minutes," Robinson, a broadcast journalism major, said. "We psyched ourselves out too much. Once we relaxed though, we started to play our game."
The Lions went into the halftime breakdown, but determined not to be knocked out. The squad collected themselves and reassured each other that they had the talent to play with Norwich.
"You could see the anger in our faces," Ross said. "No way did we travel and put so much effort into our season to lose to this team. Losing was not an option. We made a collective decision going into the second half that we were not losing this game."
Robinson emphasized that the team was thinking too much and just needed to get back to what they had worked on all year.
"We were overanalyzing everything," she said. "We needed to realize that if we could play a clean, smart game that we would win."
Norwich scored another goal just over three minutes into the second half to extend their lead, but Emerson turned things around. Sophomore marketing communication major Laura Miley scored two goals within a minute of each other to shift the momentum to the Lions' favor, and Emerson went on to finish the game outscoring the Cadets 11-3.
"It was an indescribable feeling what happened in the second half," said Ross. "I'm really proud of how we finished."
While the team was thrilled about the victory, co-Head Coach Gail Decker-Wittman noted that the two teams would probably square off again in the conference championship and that they had to remain focused to avoid the same misfortune as last year, when Emerson beat Norwich in the regular season but lost to them in the GNAC finals.
"Today was a pivotal game and we don't want to make the same mistake as last year," she said. "We have a good idea of how they play and need to do a better job on defense against them."
Robinson added that the Lions were poised to finish off the job this season because they are hungrier than Norwich.
"Our team wants it more," she said. "You shouldn't have a four-goal lead then give up six unanswered goals. It showed that they're a team that gives up."
The Lions won their GNAC semifinal game against St. Joseph's College on Wednesday, April 22. With this win, they advance to the GNAC championship on Saturday, April 25 at 6 p.m., where they face Norwich for the second straight year.