October 27, 2009

Women's soccer soaks La Crosse

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Neither UW–La Crosse, nor cold, wet conditions could stop women’s soccer from racking up another non-conference win on Saturday.

Chicago (12–2–1, 2–1–1) battled both the blustery weather and the Eagles (4–11–1) and emerged with a well-earned 3–0 win.

In the absence of prolific third-year forward Sarah Loh, who missed the game due to a knee injury, leading scorer Brooke Bontz embraced her role as focal point of the attack. The fourth-year forward opened the scoring in the 12th minute, with a lofted 18-yard shot that floated over the head of La Crosse goalkeeper Sagan Pizzingrilli and into the top right corner. The goal is her 10th of the season and, even more impressively, her seventh game winner. After the game, Bontz commented on her level of comfort with both the injured Loh, and second-year forward Allison Hegel, who played in Loh’s spot.

“With Sarah out, my role doesn’t really change. Playing with her, we have gotten better and better as a pair, but at practice I play with Allison a lot, and we have very specific runs,” she said.

The Maroons’ second goal came from a less likely source: first-year defender Brigette Kragie. Kragie got her first collegiate goal in the 41st minute with a low, skidding shot from 22 yards that just eluded the outstretched hands of Pizzingrilli. Third-year midfielder Kate Manuelli provided the official assist, but nature deserved partial credit, too, for making Pizzingrilli’s task much more difficult.

“Thankfully, the weather wasn’t as bad as I was expecting during the game, but the rain in the days leading up to the game left the field a little damp. Because the field was slick the ball moved a little faster, which helped us out a little, especially on the second goal,” second-year goalkeeper Emma Gormley said.

Second-year forward Haleigh Stopa closed out the scoring with her second goal of the season in the 79th minute. After taking control of the ball in the Eagles’ penalty area, Stopa blasted a 10-yard shot over Pizzingrilli and high into the center of the net.

At the other end of the field, Gormley made three saves to notch her fifth clean sheet of the season. Numerically, it was a light afternoon’s work, but two of those saves came on breakaways by La Crosse forward Lindsay Wilde, who proved a handful for the Maroons’ defense throughout the game.

In the end, the 3–0 score fairly reflects Chicago’s dominance against the Eagles. The Maroons outshot La Crosse 17–6 and looked sure to win from the moment Bontz scored the first goal. For the second straight game, Chicago earned enough of a lead to allow significant playing time for many substitutes.

“It was great that we were able to get a lot of different players involved in this game. Each goal was scored by a different player, and some people played in new positions. It is important, going into our last three games, that everybody is on the same page and ready to go,” Gormley said.

The extra experience for Chicago’s top reserves is sure help with that goal. The Maroons are focused on winning their final three UAA contests and know that these difficult matches will require a full team effort.

“If we continue the way we are playing, we have a great chance to end our regular season 15–2–1, but we need to make sure that we finish any chances we get, because on any given day, either team can come out on top,” fourth-year defender Kaitlin Meyer said.

Ten goals in two games show that the Maroons are indeed playing opportunistically in front of goal, and Sarah Loh’s expected return in Friday’s match with NYU (9–5–1, 0–3–1) will only increase the Maroons’ offensive firepower. Chicago’s recent offensive outbursts and Gormley’s continuing excellence between the posts sends the message that the Maroons are capable of beating any opponent they face.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that we can compete on a high level. It is just a matter of making sure that we’re ready to play,” Gormley said.