October 10, 2008

Women's soccer tops Lakers in nail-biter

[img id="80791" align="alignleft"] Going by the numbers, women’s soccer should have beaten Lake Forest hands down, and walked away well before double overtime.

Things didn’t work out so easily for the Maroons. It took them 33 shots, 108 minutes, and too many narrow misses to count, but Chicago (5–4–1, 0–1 UAA) did finally put away the Foresters (5–6) on Wednesday, sealing their 2–1 win with a golden goal headed in by fourth-year midfielder Siggy Nachtergaele in the final minutes of overtime.

Although the Maroons outshot Lake Forest 26–2 in regulation and had a 10–0 edge in corner kicks, regulation ended with the game tied 1–1. Chicago stayed on offense most of the game, regularly playing crosses and through-balls into the Foresters’ box, but had difficulty making anything out of such chances.

“We definitely had a lot of trouble finishing today, and unfortunately this is a problem that has plagued us most of the season,” Nachtergaele said. “I guess you could always say that there is a bit of luck involved, but today the bottom line was we weren’t technically solid in front of the net and didn’t finish when we should have.”

The Maroons’ offense controlled the game during overtime. Their advantage in shots and corner kicks continued, but so did the faulty first touches and poorly timed passes that frustrated Chicago’s offense in regulation.

Finally, in the 108th minute, second-year defender Claire Denz got the ball on the left wing and sent another of the crosses that had been so close but so far all afternoon into the box. This pass, though, was just right, and Nachtergaele got her head on it and fired it past fourth-year keeper Susan Hedrick, clinching the Maroon victory. Had neither team scored before the second overtime expired, the game would have ended in a tie.

“Game winners in overtime are always exciting, but this one had a bit of relief mixed in too,” Nachtergaele said. “We had so many chances to score throughout the game and in overtime that it was one of those ‘well it’s about time’ moments.”

Nachtergaele’s header ended a two-game skid for the Maroons, who started the season 3–0 only to go 1–4–1 in the six games prior to Wednesday’s match.

“I was very relieved when Siggy scored that goal,” second-year midfielder Emily Benoit said. “Our team definitely dominated the game and it would have been frustrating to come out with a tie. We really needed that win to get us going in the right direction again.”

The day started well for Chicago, as the team got several promising looks on goal in the early going. In the sixth minute, third-year midfielder Claire Gill received a pass just within the Foresters’ box and might have gotten off a good shot, but she didn’t settle the pass cleanly and sent the ball dribbling to Hedrick.

Just a few minutes after that, Nachtergaele sent a corner kick from the right across the goal to second-year defender Kate Manuelli, who was waiting for it at the far post. Manuelli headed the ball but did not redirect it enough, and it sailed several feet wide of the net.

Opportunities kept piling up for the Maroons, but they could not connect on anything until the 31st minute, when Benoit got the ball near the top right corner of the Lake Forest box. She took a couple touches to give herself some space and then fired at the far post. Third-year forward Brooke Bontz was standing near the six-yard line and it appeared she was going to volley Benoit’s ball, but Bontz let it go past her, past Hedrick’s outstretched arm, and into the side netting.

“When I kicked the ball I was mostly trying to get it on frame and hope that someone would be there to finish,” Benoit said, “but when I saw where it was going I thought that the keeper was not going to get to it and, in fact, it did go in.”

After Benoit’s goal put the Maroons up 1–0, they seemed to pull back some, and the Foresters’ began pressing into Chicago’s half more often. The Maroons defense held steady, though, and did not allow any shots on goal until the very end of the half, when fourth-year midfielder Caty von Brecht sent a ball into the Chicago net. There to corral it was third-year midfielder Emily Sadler, who settled the pass and chipped it over fourth-year keeper Polly Cline.

Sadler’s shot, which was the second and final shot for Lake Forest on the day, tied the game at one, where it would stay until Nachtergaele’s header in overtime. Throughout the second half, the Maroons were as dominant as they had been the first 30 minutes of the game, but for all their shots they were never quite able to ice the game.

Such struggles might not have cost the Maroons against Lake Forest, but a similar performance probably won’t cut it this Saturday when Carnegie Mellon (5–3–2, 0–1) comes to town. The Tartans only lost 1–0 to 22nd-ranked Wash U last weekend, and the Maroons, who dropped their UAA opener at Emory last weekend, will likely need a strong showing in conference play in order to make the postseason.