Women’s soccer’s season ends in heartbreak Sweet 16 loss

| Staff Reporter
A soccer player in a white jersey controls a ball with her right foot at the sideline as a player in a red and black striped jersey pursues her.

Gabbie Cesarone dribbles past a Rhodes College opponent in the fall of 2018. Cesarone scored the Bears’ only goal in the Sweet 16 earlier this month. (Photo by Grace Bruton / Student Life)

The Washington University women’s soccer team was eliminated in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament Nov. 20, falling to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse 3-1 in a penalty shootout.

After a hard-fought 110 minutes and several opportunities for both teams, the two teams were deadlocked at 1-1. The Bears had the first chance in penalties, but the La Crosse goalkeeper saved a shot from senior Ariana Miles. Senior Emily Kaufman scored on the next penalty kick for WashU, but junior Riley Alvarez missed her shot high and senior Erin Flynn’s shot was saved. La Crosse countered by making two of their first three shots, and when their fourth attempt flew past sophomore goalkeeper Sidney Connor, the Bears’ season was over. 

WashU finishes the season 15-2-2. This was the second consecutive season for the Bears to end in heartbreak, as they also were eliminated in 2019 by penalty kicks in the Elite Eight

Head coach Stephanie Gabbert said the team practices penalty kicks quite often, but the shots just did not land. “We knew who our top five shooters were, so there’s not much of a strategy other than having who we feel are our top PK shooters stepping up first,” Gabbert said. “Their keeper made a couple of great saves. There’s not much we can do about that.”

After allowing no goals in the first two rounds, WashU fell behind late in the first half as La Crosse broke down the stellar Bears defense, resulting in a goal from Shana Macphail. It was only the eighth goal the Bears have allowed all season.

WashU spent most of the second half on the attack, generating many great chances. In the 68th minute, senior Gabbie Cesarone’s shot off a corner kick was stopped at the goal line by a defender. Less than a minute later, sophomore Kate Flynn’s shot was saved by the La Crosse goalkeeper. 

The Bears finally broke through in the 83rd minute, as Cesarone scored her third goal of the tournament. Normally a defender, Gabbert moved Cesarone to the midfield in the middle of the second half in order to press the attack. 

In total, WashU outshot La Crosse 26-7. As has been the story all season, the Bears could not convert their chances.

“That’s kind of been our thing all season,” Gabbert said. “We’ve been doing all the hard stuff in creating those chances and getting in great positions to score some great goals, and we just haven’t always had the composure to finish when we got in those places.”

Despite the loss, Gabbert was pleased by her team’s effort in fighting back.

“I think we did a great job to come back and score that goal to tie the game up,” Gabbert said. “I’m really proud of our team for doing that, but we certainly had a lot of other chances where we could have put the game away a lot sooner.”

Gabbert was proud of the effort and leadership from the seniors all season. 

“Seniors meant everything to this team,” she said. “They gave their heart and soul to this program for four years and did everything they possibly could this season to make it the best season possible.”

The path to the playoffs:

‘We feel great’: An interview with the women’s soccer goalkeeper ahead of the Sweet 16

Defense carries women’s soccer back to Sweet 16

Holding down the left side: The Flynn sisters’ soccer journey

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