Sometimes, change is a good thing. That was certainly true Wednesday for women’s soccer, which had to send a juggled lineup onto the pitch but still recorded a landslide victory.
For the second straight game, the Maroons (8–3–3, 1–1–2) scored four goals, and they did it without the usual offensive leadership of fourth-year forward Christine Farmer or third-year midfielder Siggy Nachtergaele, who are both out with injuries. Four different players contributed to Chicago’s 4–0 crushing of UW–La Crosse (8–5–1) yesterday at Stagg, but it was second-year midfielder Claire Gill with her fourth goal in as many games who solidified her spot as a go-to person in the team’s attack.
“We’ve been really focusing on being dangerous in the offensive third, and so I’ve just been trying to do my part in that,” said Gill of her recent surge
Dominant for most of the match, the Maroons found success early with third-year defender Anne Scherer moved up for her second start at forward and playing alongside classmate midfielder Olivia Ndyabagye. The pair got the team on the board at 10:58 into playtime when Scherer flicked a pass with her back to the goal and set it up perfectly for Ndyabagye, running up the right side.
With just one defender to beat, Ndyabagye was starting to run out of room when she sliced the ball past second-year goalkeeper Lindsay Greden. A Wisconsin defender tried to trap the ball and roll it out, but it was too late. Chicago had the 1–0 advantage, and while that would be it for the first half, the home team remained a constant threat to the Eagles’ back five up until the buzzer.
Coming back from the break, the South Siders lacked the same fire that had burned through Wisconsin’s defense in the first period. With the squad looking a little disorganized and prompting shouts from the sidelines by head coach Amy Reifert, Gill got her teammates’ heads back in the game with a scorching shot to the upper 90 from the top of the box.
Taking the cross from first-year defender Katie Manuelli, Gill didn’t waste much time finessing the ball and powered it into the top left corner to double Chicago’s lead to 2–0. Gill’s goal proved to be the jumpstart the Maroons needed as they went on to tally two more in the next seven minutes.
It took less than 60 seconds after her assist to Gill that Manuelli found the net herself for the first time of her Chicago career. After coming up the left side and dancing around some defenders, the rookie finally worked open a clear shot. Greden was in perfect position for the save but got caught with her pants down, and the ball sailed through her legs.
Putting the game away for good, second-year forward Melissa Plesac notched her first goal of the season when she caught up with a pass on the left side from fourth-year midfielder Eva DeLaurentiis. With defenders closing in to clear the ball, Plesac tapped it just inside the post as Greden missed another easy save on a slow, low shot to wrap up the squad’s 4–0 blind sighting of Wisconsin.
“We went into the game knowing that we needed to take care of business against the Eagles. Every game at this point is vitally important to us,” Scherer said. “We needed a win and went into the game ready to get the job done. We knew the Eagles could battle us if we let them.”
The Maroons never gave the Eagles an opportunity to take flight, outshooting their visitors 18–4 en route to fourth-year netminder Amanda Sutter’s sixth shutout of the season. While the squad has every reason to be riding high right now, it will need to do everything it did in the last two games and more to avoid getting thunderstruck when first-ranked Wheaton comes to town Saturday.
No one has been able to figure out the Thunder lately, whose perfect 16–0–0 record this season continues last year’s 18-game winning streak that took them all the way to the DIII title. En route to their second division championship in three years, Wheaton outscored opponents 14–0 in six postseason matches. Last year Chicago was one of the teams that got caught in the storm, falling 4–1 at Joe Bean Stadium.
With 23 players returning this fall, 2007 has seen much of the same domination. The thunder has netted 67 goals while holding opponents to a meager seven. Everyone on the squad is capable of scoring, but second-year forward Taryne Lee and fourth-year striker Sarah Richardson are particularly dangerous with 17 and 14 goals, respectively.
“Everyone is so pumped for the game against Wheaton this Saturday. We are coming off two great wins and moving in the right direction,” Scherer said. “We need to continue to keep possession and finish offensively while at the same time staying organized and strong on defense.”