WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - Junior Sarah Palko (Southington, Conn.) netted a first-half hat trick to lift the University of Saint Joseph over the Suffolk University Rams, 6-1, in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) women's soccer tilt on the USJ Soccer Field on Saturday afternoon. It marks the second hat trick of the season for Palko who posted a five-goal effort in a 9-0 victory over Dean earlier this year. The win improves the Blue Jays record to 8-3-1 overall on the season and 6-2 in the GNAC, while the Rams slip to 4-5 and 3-4.
Palko registered her first of three goals on the afternoon in the 15th minute. Senior Jessica Spezzano (Watertown, Conn.) drove up the right wing and played a cross into the box that caromed off a Suffolk defender and fell at the feet of Palko, who would finish into the top-right corner of the goal to give USJ the early 1-0 advantage. The Blue Jays would strike again quickly to push their lead to 2-0 at the 17:25 mark. This time it was Spezzano who found the back of the net after junior midfielder Amanda Ghent (Portland, Conn.) played a perfect long ball up the center of the field. Spezzano ran down the pass and beat Suffolk's keeper into the top-left corner.
The Blue Jays would build a 3-0 lead after the second goal of the match from Palko in the 28th minute. A USJ throw-in to junior Morgan Skoly (Vernon, Conn.) up the right wing led to another perfect cross that found a charging Palko who sent a shot across frame into the side netting for the goal.
Suffolk got one back on the sixth goal of the season from senior Alexandra Nagri (Salem, N.H.) to climb within 3-1 at the 34:23 timestamp. A beautifully played long ball by classmate Paola Ortez (Revere, Mass.) found Nagri behind USJ's back four. Nagri settled the pass and beat sophomore keeper Megan Ricci (Center Moriches, N.Y.) one-on-one into the lower right corner.
Palko capped off her first-half hat trick with just under five minutes to play before the break to increase the Blue Jays lead back to three, 4-1. Senior midfielder Nicole Aquillo (Hebron, Conn.) dove up the center of the field and used a perfectly touched through ball to find Palko inside the box on the left side and her one-touch shot scooted past the diving Rams keeper at the 40:24 mark.
The Blue Jays continued to control possession in the second half and limited the amount of Suffolk chances to maintain their lead. They would extend the advantage to 5-1 on the second goal of the match from Spezzano. A throw-in from freshman Alyssa Fecko (Stafford, Conn.) in the 61st minute found Spezzano with space who unleashed an absolute missle of a strike to beat Suffolk's sophomore goalie Julia Fieldsend (Exeter, N.H.) from 40-yards out.
Ghent completed the scoring for USJ in the 88th minute with her team-best 11th goal of the season to account for the 6-1 final. Junior Jenai Davis (Hartford, Conn.) recorded her first career assist after battling on the Suffolk endline for the ball and then feeding a pass back to Ghent just inside the 18-yard box. Ghent's shot curled over the keeper and into the side netting.
The Blue Jays outshot the Rams 22-11 in the match, including 11-7 in shots on goal. Each team created four corner kick opportunities.
Ricci made five saves for USJ in the win as she improves her record to 8-3-1 on the season between the pipes. Fieldsend made five stops for the visitors.
The USJ soccer team will be back in action next in a week when they travel to Lasell for a GNAC match beginning at 2:45 p.m. Suffolk next plays at home against Johnson & Wales on Wednesday at 7 p.m.