Women’s soccer falls one step short of Final Four with loss to Wheaton
Playing without University Athletic Association co-player of the year Anna Zambricki, the third-ranked Washington University Bears couldn’t find a steady rhythm on offense.
It cost them enough plays for No. 11 Wheaton College to walk away from Francis Field with a 3-1 victory and a trip to San Antonio, Texas for the NCAA Final Four.
Zambricki injured her ankle on a hard tackle in the 63rd minute of the Bears’ 2-1 victory over No. 14 Concordia College on Friday and was substituted out. The sophomore was on crutches after the game and was unavailable for Saturday’s contest.
Wheaton struck first in the 18th minute off a corner kick as a loose ball found Sarah Guidera in the box. The goal, however, ran against the flow of the game as Wash. U. seemed in command. In fact, in the 30th minute, the Bears had an 11-6 advantage in shots.
At that point Wheaton seized control, and they held on tight. It would be 35 minutes before the Bears had another shot, and in that time Wheaton doubled its lead to 2-0, missed a penalty kick and took 14 shots.
The Red and Green made their way back into the game with a goal in the 66th minute from freshman Olivia Lillegraven. Freshman Abby Starker weaved between Wheaton defenders before threading a through ball to Lillegraven at the top of the six-yard box, and Lillegraven calmly tapped it past the lunging keeper to cut the deficit to one.
But Wash. U. clearly didn’t have luck on its side. An attempted cross deflected into the net in the 79th minute, and that was all the Thunder needed to put the Bears away.
“We played a great game, but sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. We promised ourselves we would leave everything on the field. No regrets. I definitely think we accomplished that,” senior goalkeeper Clara Jaques, who tied a career-high with 12 saves in the loss, said.
Wash. U. has lost three games in the last calendar year, all three to Wheaton by scores of 4-2, 4-0 and 3-1. Since the beginning of the 2011 postseason, the Bears have allowed only one fewer goal to Wheaton than to every other team they have played combined.
These two teams are obviously no strangers; however, the Thunder have dominated the series in recent years. Wash. U. has not beat Wheaton since 2006, although a playoff meeting in 2009 ended in a tie that ultimately resulted in the Bears advancing on penalty kicks. The combined score in those games is 19-3.To reach the Elite 8 game against Wheaton, the Red and Green needed a come-from-behind 2-1 Friday victory against Concordia.
Wash. U. fell victim to a gorgeous goal by Concordia’s Sarah Rounds in the 10th minute. She received the ball about 20 yards from the goal before unleashing a rocket that found the top left corner.
“Sarah Rounds is a great player; she made All-American for a reason. We left her open for a little bit, and she hammered a gorgeous shot, so give them credit for sticking to their game plan,” head coach Jim Conlon said. “Thankfully, we were able to clamp down on defense and play a little better as the minutes rolled on.”
Rather than becoming discouraged, the Bears turned up their intensity, finally breaking through in the 36th minute. Junior Kate Doyle delivered a dangerous corner kick that deflected straight to senior Nicole Martin. Martin, who had scored just one career goal prior to Friday night, headed it over the goalie and a crowd of defenders into the back of the net to tie the game at one.
“My role is to be at the top of the box for something just like that to happen. Doyle put in a great ball, and our team was able to put it in the box, and it came out. It was just right in front of me, and I headed it, and it went in,” Martin said.
“I think we were going to make adjustments regardless at halftime, but when you can go into halftime equalized instead of down one, it changes things,” Conlon added. “I don’t think it changed our intensity or our desire at all, and then we just needed to make a couple fine tune adjustments and away we go.”
Riding a wave of momentum going into the break, the Bears outshot Concordia 16-3 after halftime only to be stifled continuously by the Cobbers’ goalie.
But in the 71st minute, a Concordia defender pulled down junior Becky Berels at the edge of the 18-yard box, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Martin stepped up to take the PK and blasted the ball to the left-hand side. The keeper and Concordia didn’t stand a chance.
“I just thought our girls were very intelligent today and got a great win to advance to the sectional finals,” Conlon said.
Washington University ends its season with a school-record 19 wins. The graduating senior class of 2013 posted a career record of 65-19-6.
“I’m extremely lucky to have been a part of this team, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to share my last year with,” Jaques said. “I’ll remember my teammates. They’re just simply the best.”