Women’s soccer: WU hosts opening round of NCAA tournament

Dorian DeBose | Senior Sports Editor

The Washington University women’s soccer team will host first and second round play of the NCAA Division III tournament for the third straight season this Saturday and Sunday. The games will be played on Francis Field.

Erin Flynn passes the ball down the field towards the University of Chicago goal. The 17-0 Bears will be making their 13th-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament Friday night Grace Bruton | Student Life

Erin Flynn passes the ball down the field towards the University of Chicago goal. The 17-0 Bears will be making their 13th-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament Friday night

The No. 1 Bears will face Westminster College Saturday at 5 p.m. Whoever emerges from that game will take on either Illinois Wesleyan University or Mount St. Joseph University, who play at 7:30 p.m.

Wash. U., who will enter the tournament after completing an undefeated regular season, has played crushing defense all year. Through 17 games, the Bears allowed 21 shots on goal and 4 goals total. The defense has routinely denied opportunities to even their opponents’ most offensively gifted opponents.

In addition to their exceptional defensive play, the Bears field a litany of shot creators and scorers that make defending their attack extremely difficult. 11 players have scored at least twice for the Bears this season. Junior forward Taylor Cohen led the UAA in scoring with 11 goals this season. Senior Darcy Cunningham and Cohen are tied for second in the UAA with 7 assists. Freshman Erin Flynn and senior Maggie Crist round out the top 5 in assists, with 6 and 5, respectively. The Bears led the UAA in goals per game and assists per game. They’ve produced spectacular offensive performances all year, and they will look to continue their streak of dominance in the opening rounds of the tournament.

They will look to put last year’s surprising second round exit behind them.

Westminster took a much more contested route to the tournament. The Blue Jays defeated Greenville 3-2 in double overtime to win their conference and clinch their spot in the NCAA tournament. They amassed an 11-4-3 record over the course of the season. Senior Heidi Gundy and sophomore Cara Wilfong both earned 1st team St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Wash. U. and Westminster haven’t met this season. However, they share some common opponents. Westminster played two overtime thrillers against Fontbonne, who Wash. U. dispatched 4-0 this season.

The winner will take on the winner between IWU and Mount St. Joseph.

Illinois Wesleyan finished the season 13-4-2 and won the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin’s automatic bid to the tournament. The Titans have made the tournament in 10 of the last 11 years. Their tournament record is 10-8-3. Junior Flower Edington was named offensive player of the year for the CCIW. She had three goals and four assists this season, which tied for fifth in the conference. Senior Rosie Pettenuzzo was a named to the 1st team All-CCIW team. She had three goals on the season.

Mount St. Joseph ended the regular season in superb fashion, defeating No. 14 Hanover College 3-0 on the road. The Lions finished the season with 16-2-3 record and a 7-1-1 record in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. Junior Stephanie Autenrieb was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year as well as first-team HCAC honors. Autenrieb was the only Lion to start every game this season and netted five goals and two assists. Joining Autenrieb on first-team HCAC are seniors Kaylan Gruber and Taylor Murphy. Gruber was second in the HCAC in scoring with 16 goals, and she piled seven assists on top of that. Murphy was a defensive stand-out. Mount St. Joseph has produced 10 shut-outs this season. Murphy has been a big contributor on that end. Five Lions were also on the second team HCAC or earned an honorable mention.

Whichever team emerges will advance to the Sweet 16, where they’ll face the winner of the Wartburg/Wisconsin-La Crosse/St. Thomas/Knox bracket next weekend.