If there was ever such a thing as a trap game, the women's soccer 2-1 overtime loss to Washington University last Saturday was it.
The Maroons, ranked first in Division III and one win away from their first-ever undefeated season, were exactly six minutes away from a tie that would have clinched the team's fourth University Athletic Association championship before disaster struck.
During one of their many corner kicks, the Bears were able to drop the ball back to one of their midfielders, who lofted the ball over the Chicago defense. Second-year goalkeeper Andrea Przybysz charged out of the box in an attempt to clear, but the ball bounced off a defender, allowing striker Sara Schroeder to take an easy shot on the open net.
Prior to this game, Washington was just one point behind Chicago in the UAA standings and needed a win for any chance at postseason play.
The game vaulted Washington to seventh in the nation, while the 14-1-3 Maroons dropped to tenth. However, because of Chicago's strong performance during the rest of the season, the team was notified Sunday that it had received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, as well as a first-round bye.
The Maroons will face the Webster University Gorloks, who defeated Lake Forest University 1-0 earlier this week, in a match to be played at 1:30 today in Wheaton, Illinois.
"It was one of the most amazing moments to score in overtime and have all of my teammates and our fans rush the field," Shroeder said. "It actually took me a moment to register how important my goal actually was."
Schroeder, a native of the western Chicago suburb of Oak Park, has a long history of dominance on the field.
"She was a force of nature in high school," said first-year Lisa Furchtgott, Schroeder's former classmate. "She looks small, blond, and lovable, but she'll kill you on the field." According to Furchtgott, the Bears forward always played above her age level and routinely challenged older, more experienced players.
Schreoder, known by her friends as "Schro," was thrilled about giving her team a chance to compete for the national championship.
"I am still smiling about [the goal]. Chicago is a good team, and we both played really hard for the game," Schroeder said. "We are really excited to be in the tournament, and hopefully Wash U and Chicago will meet again later on."
Schroeder might get her wish sooner than she expects. With both teams in Wheaton today, wins from each side would put the two head-to-head once more in the Regional Final less than a week after Saturday's upset.
Saturday's match was emotionally charged both on and off the field. With a crowd size seldom seen at Stagg Field, including parents, members of the Greek system, boyfriends, and a sizable contingent of Washington fans, nearly every move made by a player or an official drew some kind of audible reaction. Bears' players unfortunate enough to make a mistake near the bleachers received taunts of all kinds from Chicago fans.
The post-game reaction from the Bears was mixed, if not gracious.
"We have never experienced that much heckling, so it was pretty distracting, but we didn't let it get to us," Schroeder said. "The team agreed that we would love to have the same type of fan base back in St. Louis."