Women’s soccer survives overtime scare to remain undefeated

| Sports Editor

An Olivia Lillegraven header knocked past Rhodes College’s sprawling goalie turned a potentially devastating upset into a thrilling victory as the No. 2 Washington University women’s soccer team took down its opponent in a 1-0 overtime contest Saturday evening at Francis Field.

Senior Lillie Toaspern fights for the ball against a Rhodes College defender on Saturday. The Bears had a 23-1 shot advantage in the second half.Mariana Parisca | Student Life

Senior Lillie Toaspern fights for the ball against a Rhodes College defender on Saturday. The Bears had a 23-1 shot advantage in the second half.

On Sunday, the Bears had an easier time in routing Benedictine University and scoring eight goals in a shutout to improve to 5-0 on the season.

From the outside, Saturday’s contest was not supposed to be a dramatic affair. Wash. U. took down Rhodes 7-0 in last year’s matchup, and opposing teams rarely fare well against the highly ranked Bears squad, especially at Francis Field. Head coach Jim Conlon, however, said that the overtime game proves that the Red and Green can’t take any team lightly.

“We caught Rhodes at a down time in their season last year,” Conlon said. “They’re significantly improved and playing well. They had us out of their net for a long time.”

Each side had a couple of chances early, with both goalkeepers relying on diving stops to knock away potential goals. In one such instance, a Rhodes shot from 25 yards out in the 41st minute would have given the visitors a lead heading into halftime, but sophomore goalie Lizzy Crist leaped to deflect the ball over the crossbar.

Filling in for injured goalkeeper Amy French, who had a record-setting season in 2013, Crist and fellow backup Nina Gerson have filled the void by not conceding a goal yet this season.

“Our keepers don’t have to make the most saves in the country, but they have to make the ones that we need them to make,” Conlon said. “[Crist] made some great saves.”

Despite being outshot 8-7 in the first half, the Bears completely changed their tone right after the break with a flurry of shots that almost gave them a lead when senior forward Lillie Toaspern’s point-blank attempt was saved. Converting on a few of the shots might have ended the game in regular time, as a 23-1 shot advantage in the second half led to several more opportunities for the Bears.

The decisive goal in sudden-death overtime came in the 96th minute when sophomore midfielder Lexie Sprague sent a soaring pass toward the net that junior forward Lillegraven got enough of her head on to send past the diving goalkeeper.

Even with the win, the Bears are looking to improve on team chemistry and precision, especially as it relates to putting a few more balls in the back of the net.

“We are still a fairly new team together,” Lillegraven said. “It will come with chemistry and coming together.”

In the second game of the weekend on Sunday, a barrage of shots led to a dominant 8-0 win over Benedictine (Ill.) University, highlighted by a hat trick from sophomore forward Katie Chandler and three assists from Toaspern. The Red and Green sent a multitude of shots Benedictine’s way while staying disciplined on the back end to the tune of a 49-3 shot advantage in the game.

Freshman midfielder Mariana Alisio was one of the newcomers who showed off for coach Conlon and the rest of the team, notching her first career goal off an assist from fellow freshman midfielder Megan Wolf in the 77th minute.

“We capitalized early and got to play a lot of freshmen,” Lillegraven said. “I thought they did a great job coming in in the second half and scoring goals.”

After Sunday’s game, the forward trio of Toaspern, Lillegraven and Chandler has now combined to score 10 goals in five games for the Bears, and Toaspern has added five assists.

“To have that equal balanced attack with multiple finishers is great for us,” Conlon said. “Lillie [Toaspern] is going to attract a lot of defensive attention—if she can free up her teammates with great passes when she’s got a lot of defenders sucked to her, it’s a great combination for us.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.