On the pitch: Women’s soccer clinch UAA, men fall in double OT to Chicago
On Saturday, both the Washington University men’s and women’s soccer teams travelled to the Windy City to take on the University of Chicago in their regular season finales. With a University Athletic Association title on the line, women defeated the Maroons 2-0, clinching the conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in the process. The men, however, surrendered three unanswered goals and suffered a 3-2 double overtime heartbreaker.
The women played first and in the morning half of the doubleheader, senior forward Olivia Lillegraven opened up the scoring in the 30th minute off a free kick. The goal was her 11th of the season and her the 30th of her career, placing her at eighth all-time in Wash. U. history. Later, freshman Darcy Cunningham added another goal in the 52nd minute off a quick pass in the box by junior Katie Chandler to round out the scoring and put the game out of reach. The Bears finish the season without allowing a single goal in regulation in the UAA and have not allowed a regulation goal since Sept. 30.
“This was a great win and an awesome way to end the regular season,” Lillegraven said. “I am so proud of my teammates for all the hard work they have put in to get us to this point. Hopefully we can continue our success in the next few weeks for the playoffs.”
After jumping out to the early 2-0 lead, the men were held silent from the second half on, managing just six shots, three on target. The Maroons would end up with a 24-10 over the Bears, only the third time all season Wash. U. had been outshot by an opponent
“This was definitely a tough loss to swallow,” head coach Joe Clarke said. “We fought hard, but in the end they made one more play than us, and that ended up being the difference. You don’t have to play pretty; you just have to be better than the opponent on any given day.”
The Bears, who were ranked No. 18 coming into Saturday’s match, finished fourth in the UAA with a record of 11-4-3. Though they did not win the conference, the team still has a shot of being selected to play in the NCAA tournament. The NCAA selection show will take place on Monday at noon.
“We’ll just wait and see what happens,” Clarke said. “We had a good season, and I am proud of the way the guys played. If we get selected, then we will have to work hard and step up our game when we face new competition.”
The NCAA tournament selection show will take place Monday, Nov. 9 at 12 p.m. While the men will hope for an at-large bid, the women, with an automatic berth and high ranking, figure to receive a favourable draw. This year will mark their 10th straight appearance in the tournament.
“We are all very excited to get another opportunity to play in the tournament,” head coach Jim Conlon said. “These girls have played tremendously all year and deserve this special chance. We had a great regular season, but now November is here, and we have to stay focused and determined. Anything can happen, and we have to be ready and on top of our game on all sides of the ball.”
Still, even in an advantageous position, the women will have trouble resting on their laurels. Last season, the then-ranked No. 13 Bears were upset in the first round of the playoffs by a No. 25 Puget Sound in a match Lillegraven remembers all too well.
“It was frustrating being out with an ankle injury and watching from the sideline, wishing I could jump in and help my teammates,” Lillegraven said. “But that was last season, and this season is completely different. We have to focus one game at a time and not get ahead of ourselves. We also have to limit our mistakes and not beat ourselves. We have a chance to do something special, and I am very excited to get back to work.”