17-0: Women’s soccer completes historic season with 2-0 win over No. 20 Chicago
Undefeated: a word never used to describe a Washington University women’s soccer team’s regular season––until Saturday. The Bears completed the first perfect regular season in school history, defeating No. 20 University of Chicago at Francis Field for their 17th victory without a loss.
The No. 1 Bears finished out their historic regular season with a well-fought win against a Chicago team which certainly brought its A-game. The match began with both teams putting the pressure on offensively. The Red and Green tested the keeper early, with early shots from a trio of midfielders, freshman Ariana Miles and seniors Caroline Dempsey and Maggie Crist. However, Chicago would battle, as midfielder Maddie DeVoe sent her header wide off of a corner kick.
The game’s opening goal came in the 28th minute. Two Red and Green seniors connected for a beautiful goal, as Crist headed the ball away off of a beautiful free kick by back Hannah Menard. For the rest of the half, both teams were able to keep each other at bay, as there was only one shot from both teams for the last 18 minutes of the half. Heading into the second half, the Bears held a slender advantage. The Bears shot the ball an abnormally low amount of times in the first half, and began the second half looking to test the keeper more often.
They did so out of the gate, as good team play lead to a shot from freshman midfielder Erin Flynn that missed wide. In the 53rd minute, Chicago came close to leveling the score. Chicago’s Katie Jasminski rattled off a shot off of a corner kick, and sophomore forward Kristen Reikersdorfer cleared the ball off the line to deny Chicago of a crucial equalizing goal.
For the next 20 minutes, Wash. U. continued to get shots off sparingly. However, the Bears struggled to find the target. Then, in the 79th minute, Chicago had another golden opportunity to equalize. In a situation similar to the one earlier in the half, Jasminski got off a shot from a corner kick. Remarkably, Reikersdorfer was there to clear the ball off the line again for her second team save of the game.
Chicago continued to press for the following minutes, as Madison Navarro fired another shot towards the Wash. U. goal, but the Bear defense came up with a big block to keep the score at 1-0. Then, in the 83rd minute, junior forward Taylor Cohen grabbed the goal that would secure the undefeated season. In a quick attack against the run of play, freshman forward Marissa Kalkar found Cohen at the top of the box, whose shot rattled off the crossbar and into the net.
The game ended 2-0, as the Bears won a hard-fought game to earn the program’s first undefeated regular season. After the game, head coach Jim Conlon praised his team for such an exciting accomplishment.
“It’s a credit to the women for staying focused and winning games,” Conlon said.
Conlon explained how the biggest challenge the team has faced this season has been keeping their play sharp and tidy against tough opposition. Having one of the toughest schedules in the country, the Bears had to bring their best every time against good teams that want nothing more than to dethrone them.
“Staying consistent when you’re getting tested day in and day out is a difficult thing,” Conlon said. “It’s hard sometimes to play at a consistently high level against many good opponents.”
However, Conlon also said that the Bears have been able to overcome this challenge by each player playing to her strengths.
“We often tell our girls to play within themselves and play their games,” Conlon said, explaining how it can sometimes be “very easy to get hung up on what the opponent is going to do.”
Instead, Conlon has encouraged each player to “play to her gifts day in and day out…while not getting too high or too low emotionally” with regards to the score.
Finally, Conlon had high praise for the wonderful senior class, who, with Saturday’s win, became the winningest class in school history. Conlon stated that while the class had “had their ups and downs,” their presence in the locker room was always felt to good effect, as they “did a good job keeping (the younger players) focused.”
With this win, the Bears will now turn their attention to postseason play, as they will enter the tourney with aspirations of bringing home another national championship. The NCAA Selection Show will take place today at 12:30 p.m.