Late charge gives women’s soccer UAA title over No. 1 Chicago
Down 1-0 to No. 1 University of Chicago, on the road with under 23 minutes left, the Washington University women’s soccer team’s dream of a third straight UAA title looked dead. Just 41 seconds later, they were more alive than ever, rejuvenated by a pair of scores that sent the Bears to a sensational 2-1 coup of another conference championship.
In the most thrilling chapter of the Bears-Maroons rivalry to date, the Red and Green extended their unparalleled dominance of Chicago, seizing a seventh consecutive head-to-head win Saturday at Stagg Field. Four times the Maroons have been ranked, and four times Wash. U. has faced a road test; this time, in the toughest battle yet, the Bears survived, making it 11-2 in the stretch.
Wash. U. faced a daunting task coming in, with the Maroons outscoring their opposition 65-4 entering the game, including 31 unanswered goals. The Red and Green defense was similarly potent, allowing just five goals total prior to the showdown.
The two defenses understandably dictated the pace: The game started slow, with only two shots taken between the teams in the first 15 minutes. Neither offense could create opportunities against the other’s stellar back line.
In the 17th minute though, Chicago struck, firing a 25-yard free kick into the upper left corner to give the Maroons an early lead. After that, both attacks woke up, exchanging shots throughout the remainder of the half. Both teams narrowly missed key opportunities: A promising header by sophomore forward Taylor Cohen went wide off the net in the 33rd minute, then Chicago’s own header ricocheted off the post to keep the score at 1-0.
Towards the end of the half, Wash. U.’s offense began to exert more control over the flow of the game, taking the last four shots before the break. At one point, senior forward Mariana Alisio regained Wash. U. possession after a shot, but her attempt went just left of the goal. The half concluded with Chicago leading, 1-0, but the Bears showing positive signs with a commanding 9-4 lead in attempts.
The second half saw the Red and Green continue their momentum from the end of the first and realize some of the opportunities they had been unable to finish earlier. After two quick shots by Cohen in the first five minutes, freshman forward Ellie DeConinck placed a shot on goal in the 52nd minute, which was saved by the Chicago goalkeeper.
Though the Maroon keeper fantastically kept her team ahead, the Bear barrage kept coming. Over a span of two minutes beginning in the 61st, Cohen, junior midfielder Maggie Crist and senior midfielder Mia Mastroianni all took great shots that were saved.
But in the 68th minute, the Bears finally broke through in a big way. Junior midfielder Darcy Cunningham sent a beautiful shot from 25 yards out over the keeper and into the back of the net to tie the game.
After the score, DeConinck re-entered the game after a brief break. Within 41 seconds, she got away from the defense for a breakaway opportunity off a feed from Cunningham and Cohen and converted the shot to give Wash. U. a stunning, decisive 2-1 lead.
Both teams continued to fight for the UAA crown until the very end. In the 83rd minute, freshman goalkeeper Emma Greenfield saved what would be the final shot by Chicago to cement the comeback win.
The victory was an all-around extraordinary effort. The Red and Green offense was clicking, taking 10 more shots than the Maroons and offering more than twice as many shots on goal. The defense also performed well, denying chances for extended stretches of time while also turning miscues into opportunities when chances presented themselves. Greenfield made key saves that helped keep the game from getting away from the Bears in the first half and sealed the victory in the second half.
The two teams claimed a share of the UAA title with identical 6-1 conference records. It marks the fifth in six years for head coach Jim Conlon’s Bears. Wash. U. received the UAA’s automatic bid for this year’s NCAA Tournament and will begin competing later this month. With the regular season complete, the Selection Show will take place Monday at noon.