October 31, 2011

Out of UAA contention, Chicago still eyes NCAA berth

It’s not over ‘til it’s over.

Although the 23rd-ranked women’s soccer team (9–5–2, 2–2–2) is now officially out of contention of having the best record in the UAA, with Friday’s home loss to 18th-ranked Case (12–3–2, 4–2), 1–0, and Sunday’s 1–0 home win over Rochester (8–7, 2–4), the Maroons still feel optimistic about their chances of receiving a bid to the NCAA DIII National Tournament.

Yet the Maroons are uncertain about their chances after Friday’s late loss to Case.

Prior to the game, Chicago had its game plan set and was only focused on beating the Spartans, not on winning Sunday’s affair.

“We knew their strengths,” second-year midfielder Claire Mackevicius said. “We knew who we had to follow.”

Throughout the game, the Maroons contained the Spartans in the manner they had discussed prior to the game.

Both teams’ defensive efforts made for a 0–0 halftime score. Going into halftime, Chicago allowed only three shots against and had seven shots going for them.

The game stayed stagnant at 0–0 until the 77th minute, when Case third-year midfielder Kendra Simmons broke away from the defense. Fourth-year Chicago goalkeeper Emma Gormley came out of the net in an attempt to save the ball, but Simmons chipped it over her head into the back of the net.

“It wasn’t a defensive breakdown,” Mackevicius said. “They made a good play.”

Mackevicius said the goal was tough to handle mentally, given the effort the Maroons contributed all day to contain Case.

“We had a fantastic defense the whole game; [Gormley] had a great game,” she said. “That made [the goal] even worse.”

Chicago was unable to score in the final minutes of the game, giving Case the 1–0 win.

The Maroons, going into Sunday, used Friday’s loss to spark a focused mind-set.

“We were more ready to fight on Sunday after Friday’s results,” Mackevicius said.

To make matters better for Chicago, Rochester was coming off a 5–1 loss on the road to Wash U on Friday.

With fourth-year forward Ellen Coleman, the UAAs leader in shot attempts on their team, the Yellow Jackets were not about to be throw in the towel after a big loss.

Chicago contained Coleman in a manner most teams this season have not been able to maintain.

“We had [fourth-year defender] Maggie [Tobin] just take care of her all game and gave her basically no opportunities,” Mackevicius said. “We just did a really good job of shutting her down and not allowing her to either take the lead for her team or dish it off to anyone else.”

Because of that, the Maroons were given opportunities on the offensive end.

In the 26th minute, second-year forward Micaela Harms scored a goal off an assist from first-year forward Sara Kwan. The goal proved to be the game winner.

At the half’s conclusion, Chicago allowed Rochester to take only two shots. But even though the Maroons had the 1–0 advantage at halftime, they did not want to stick to a completely defensive strategy.

“Our [head] coach [Amy Reifert] always says, ‘A 1–0 lead is the most dangerous lead in soccer because it can easily be turned right around,’” Mackevicius said. “We were not at all defensively minded even after our goal. We kept pushing.”

By attaining that mentality, in the second half the Maroons outshot Rochester 8–4. Coleman was only allowed two shots the entire game.

The team effort, which led to the 1–0 victory, inspires the Maroons to finish the season off on a high note for the chance to make the NCAA tournament.

“We are optimistic,” Mackevicius said. “It’s just a numbers game after Saturday’s game against Wash U. We just play to win that game and then cross our fingers.”

Chicago hosts Wash U in the regular season finale on Saturday, November 5 at 1:30 p.m.