WORCESTER, Mass. - Army junior forward Erringer Helbling was attempting to cross the ball in the waning seconds of play when instead it went off the side of her foot and over goalkeeper's Ashlyn Angell's head and into the net with just 25 seconds left on the clock to lift the Black Knights to the regular-season Patriot League women's soccer title on the strength of their 1-0 blanking of Holy Cross at Linda Johnson Smith Stadium.
The Black Knights (13-3-3, 4-0-3 Patriot League) took over sole possession of first place in the league after finishing the season with 15 points, along with owning the tie-breaker should Bucknell also earn the same number of points, en route to capturing their fifth regular-season conference title and first since 2002. Army will be the tournament's host and top seed next weekend, Nov. 5 and Nov. 7. The field is set, but the seedings are still to be determined with three of the teams, Bucknell (4-2-0), Lehigh (3-1-2) and Colgate (3-2-1), closing out competition on Saturday. The Bison host the Raiders and the Mountain Hawks are at Lafayette.
The blanking is Army's 15th of the season and the 10th for goalkeeper Alex Lostetter, who was called on to make two of her three saves in the second half to improve to 8-2-3. Lostetter's 10 shutouts are one shy of her season high set her sophomore year, while stretching her school and career mark to 30.
Helbling's goal is her third of the season and second game winner in a goal described as "ugly" by coach Stefanie Golan after leading her team to her first title in her second year at the helm Friday evening. The Army mentor was on the staff when the Black Knights captured the tournament crown and first-ever NCAA bid two years ago.
"We had missed four opportunities that we did not finish," commented Golan. "In the first half we played into the wind and the second half we had the wind at our backs. We were more dangerous in the second half, but also gave up a couple of opportunities, so I am happy we pulled this out. The team earned it and now we will get a chance to host the tournament.
"Our goal in the preseason was to get ourselves into the tournament, and then win it, but as the season progressed and we got into league play and were successful, we changed our goal to let's win the regular-season and bring it home. Our next step is to win our semifinal round Friday to advance to the finals and put ourselves in the position to win the title and the NCAA Tournament berth."
Army had seven shots (five on goal) to Holy Cross' three in the second half, and three of the Black Knights first five attempts were on goal with another, a shot by team captain Kelley Robbins, hitting the post. Helbling's first shot of the game was on goal and rejected by Angell in the 73rd minute, followed by both of Army's corner kicks prior to the junior's winning tally as the Black Knights boosted their unbeaten streak in the series to 15 straight.
The Black Knights stretched their unbeaten streak to eight straight following their 13th win of the season for the most victories since recording 16 in 1997.
NOTES: The Black Knights won regular-season titles the first three years the Patriot League went to the tournament format (1991, 1992 and 1993) before capturing it again in 2002 ... Navy was a contender along with Colgate for the fourth spot to the tournament, but the Midshipmen's 3-2 loss to American eliminated them from competition in finishing the season 9-8-3 and 2-3-2 in the league, opening the door for the Raiders ... Army has allowed just five goals in 19 games and just one in seven league matches ... the school record for fewest goals allowed is nine set in 2002 ... Erringer Helbling ranks second on the team with seven points following her third tally of the season and career fourth ... Army has scored 22 goals this year along with 14 assists for 58 points, while holding its opponents to five goals and six assists for 16 points ... the school record for fewest points allowed is 22 (9 goals, 4 assists) recorded in 2002.