SPORTS

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October 24, 2006

Farmer, women's soccer back on target at Stagg

It had been a rough three weeks for Christine Farmer. As the third-year forward and team’s top scorer struggled to come back from a nagging knee injury, women’s soccer fell upon hard times, slipping out of the national polls and casting the squad’s postseason hopes in serious doubt. All that changed on Saturday.With a pair of goals in the first 10 minutes of play, a rejuvenated Farmer led the Maroons (10–4–1, 1–2–1 UAA) to a 2–1 win over visiting Concordia (10–3–1) in a game with wide-reaching regional implications. The win extended Chicago’s home field unbeaten streak to 30 games and boosted the squad’s regional credentials after key losses at third-ranked Calvin and 10th-ranked Wheaton. Fourth-year forward Jordan Pouliot submitted a career performance in the match, setting up the second goal and routinely testing the Cobbers’ defense with her pressure.

“Those goals were very reassuring for me, after how my last few weeks have gone,” said Farmer, who paces the team with 12 goals on the year. “I was happy just to be able to help the team out once again, and to feel like I was contributing to the team effort.

“The injury hampered my style of play a lot when I first came back, because I had trouble doing normal things like cutting, shooting or passing with my left foot, and going in for tackles. I was very tentative, which is not how I normally like to play.”

In a total reversal of the October 13 loss to Rochester, the Maroons took control of the game before th e fans even had time to find their seats. After third-year Amanda Catalano’s corner kick was deflected out to Farmer, the Pine City, NY native wasted no time in putting it away for her first goal in nine games. Farmer’s header clanged off the post but then deflected off the hand of second-year keeper Britt Reiersgord into the net for the 1–0 lead.

Minutes later the Maroons doubled their lead on a fantastic play by Pouliot. Running down the center of the field, Pouliot threaded four defenders with a perfectly spotted through-ball to the waiting feet of Farmer. Given time and space, Farmer coolly slotted her shot into the left corner for the two-goal cushion.

“I think that many of our problems this year have stemmed from playing with reservation in the beginning of games,” Farmer said. “In this game though, we came out with a lot of confidence and determination, and I definitely think it showed in our style of play.”

After the early outburst, things settled down for the next 35 minutes until halftime. Neither team was able to create many concrete chances on goal offensively, although the Maroons, buoyed by strong midfield play, continued to pressure the Cobbers.

Chicago may have lost a little steam toward the end of the first half, but the squad came back after the break and battled all the way to the final whistle. With the level of intensity noticeably elevated, the Maroons created a golden chance inside the box in the 62nd minute. Losing her defender down the right sideline, second-year midfielder Olivia Ndyabagye cut in along the endline and sent a cross into the box. The ball landed at the feet of second-year midfielder Siggy Nachtergaele, but the Cobber defense prevented her from pulling off a quality shot.

The visitors struck back four minutes after Nachtergaele’s just-miss, grabbing a goal to cut the deficit to one. After a counterattack, Concordia floated a ball into the box, and fourth-year Amy Ravenhorst managed to flick the ball on net. The Maroons defenders could only watch as the ball dribbled past second-year keeper Amanda Sutter and into the left-hand corner.

For the rest of the half, the Maroons kept up the pressure by utilizing their new offensive system. Getting the ball quickly to either Nachtergaele, who was playing above the rest of the midfield, or to the wings, Ndyabagye and first-year Brooke Bontz, the Maroons created a steady flow of scoring opportunities. Displaying outstanding pace up top, Pouliot worked well off of her striking partner Farmer and challenged the Cobbers’ back line for every loose ball.

“Jordan has been doing a great job of winning the ball and then holding it, giving the rest of the team time to transition into offense,” first-year midfield Claire Gill said. “Our forwards did really well with that and with playing off of each other, making runs in good positions so that our midfielders and defenders could easily pass the ball into them and start the attack.”

At the other end of the field, a Chicago back four anchored by the steady play of second-year Anne Scherer thwarted Concordia’s efforts for the rest of the half. The Cobbers’ best chance came with five minutes remaining, after a foul off the ball gave the visitors a free kick 25 yards out. The ensuing shot caromed off the wall, though, and the Maroons ran as much time off the clock as they could from that point on, with Farmer and Bontz holding the ball in the corner.

“In the second half of the game, we did a better job of focusing on possession and switching the field,” Gill said. “After halftime, we tried to bring the focus back to possessing the ball, switching the field, and winning the 50/50 battles, and did well in the second half following that plan.”

With three difficult UAA games left on the schedule, an NCAA tournament bid is by no means certain. If Chicag can take care of business at home next weekend against NYU (6–7–1, 0–4–0), and Brandeis (8–3–3, 1–0–3), it will set up a dramatic regular season finale November 4 at 18th-ranked Wash U (12–2–0, 4–0). The Bears have recovered nicely from an off year last fall and pose a tough but winnable challenge.