Reliving the year’s top plays

By Chris Boots

Bontz is bad news for Bears

When 10th-ranked Wash U rolled into town to take on women’s soccer for the final game of the regular season, the Bears got to play with the comfort of knowing they had their fourth UAA title locked up and a spot in the playoffs. The Maroons had no such luxury.

On the bubble for NCAAs, Chicago needed a win over its St. Louis rivals to make the postseason. The Bears took a 1–0 lead late in the first half, and it looked like it was going to be enough for a W.

Then, with 15 minutes left in the game, second-year forward Brooke Bontz evened things up with a shot to the upper 90 from 20 yards out. Just seven minutes later, she netted the game winner, finishing up the late comeback that she started and icing Chicago’s playoff bid.

Walk it out: Lenson smashes first home run

A walk-off home run is news any day of the week. But a walk-off grand slam ranks as one of the year’s top moments.

In a back-and-forth game with North Park, the Maroons had regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth, but second-year second baseman Jill Lenson put an end to the seesaw game with one swing of the bat.

With two outs and the bases loaded, Lenson took first-year starter Tatum Sexton deep for the first homer of her career. The slam capped a seven-run rally that ushered in the mercy rule and a 13–5 victory for Chicago.

Hainje comes through as Mr. Clutch

Ahead of Wash U by only a point, with under a minute remaining in the UAA Championships, the Maroons needed a score to ensure that the Bears couldn’t end Chicago’s playoff hopes with a final shot at the buzzer. Feeding the ball to fourth-year forward Nate Hainje in the senior’s final home game, second-year point guard Jake Pancratz knew he’d set up the right play.

“Once I got him the ball, I knew, everyone on the team knew he was going to hit that shot,” Pancratz said.

Draining a clutch three-pointer with 49 seconds to go, Hainje made it a two-possession game and virtually ensured the win for Chicago, sending the Maroons to their second straight NCAA appearance and giving them outright ownership of the conference crown that they had to share with Wash U last year.

The dunk

With the UAA schedule one game old, the Maroons found themselves needing to regroup after a 76–50 blowout loss to Wash U. Third-year guard Matt Corning thought he would do his part against Case Western from above the rim.

After a Chicago basket gave the Maroons a four-point lead less than ten minutes into the contest, Corning stole a pass to the wing, blew past the remaining defenders, and dunked the ball with authority while getting fouled.

“When push comes to shove, I think that there were a lot of good plays made when we made shots,” head coach Mike McGrath said after the game. “That one just stood out a little bit.”

While McGrath was ready to downplay the dunk, some Chicago fans packed into the stands that night had been waiting a long time to see a Maroon slam one in at Ratner. When Corning made his move, the crowd went into hysterics at the rare piece of showmanship at the D-III level.

Zhang topples D-III’s best

On February 23, first-year Will Zhang had to be carted off the court after suffering a full-body cramp in his match against Wabash. Eight days later, he was cleaning the court with the division’s top-ranked singles player.

After getting swept on the doubles side of their March 2 contest with Wash U, the Maroons looked to their young first-singles player for a bright spot in what would end in a 6–3 loss. To do so, Zhang would have to defeat the number-one ranked John Watts. Zhang not only got the best of the now NCAA-bound Watts, he breezed by him. He took the match in straight sets, defeating Watts 6–4, 6–4.

“I think that going into the match, I actually felt less pressure to win because of how highly ranked he was,” Zhang said. “I felt like having a shot at the best would be fun, and it was…. Obviously, the win was my biggest one in D-III, and I was really glad I could play at that silly level and help my team out against a tough rival team.”