By Michael Battista
The women’s soccer team came up short in the national semifinals in Greensboro, North Carolina on Friday, Dec. 1. The team earned their first loss of the season to the University of Chicago, 1-0. The Lions end the season with a record of 21-1-1 and a third place finish in the NCAA tournament.
Chicago went on to face Williams College in the final after the latter beat Hardin-Simmons University, 1-0, in the match following the Lions’ loss. Williams College then defeated Chicago in the final, 1-0, on Saturday, Dec. 2, for their second national championship in three years.
The night prior to the semi-final match, three team members earned All-American honors from the United Soccer Coaches. Senior forward Christine Levering, who earned second team honors in 2016, was named to the first team this season. Senior midfielder Jessica Goldman and sophomore goalkeeper Nicole DiPasquale were both named to the second team.
DiPasquale said in an email interview that the honor means a lot to her.
“I am honored and very excited to be named second team All American,” DiPasquale said. “I did not earn this honor all by myself. I had everyone’s back on the field and did my job when needed, but the key to getting this honor is how well everyone else took care of business all season.”
After the banquet and ceremony, the team had to focus on their match with the fourth best team in the nation. However, the Lions did not wake up for the first half of play.
The team was behind for a majority of the match. Only 16 seconds into the contest, Chicago senior forward Madori Spiker got a shot on the Lions’ net that went high. Only five minutes later, Chicago netted the first and only goal of the game.
Spiker took advantage of sloppy defending and a failed clearance attempt. She got the ball back with few defenders around her in the Lions’ zone. Spiker’s cross to Chicago sophomore midfielder Hanna Watkins set up a scoring opportunity a goal in the lower right corner of the net.
“We started the game playing a little scared and nervous, which allowed Chicago to take the early lead,” DiPasquale said. “They came out with confidence and experience… We were inexperienced and didn’t know what to expect. After we got scored on, it took us a while to pick up the intensity because we were still playing scared.”
Chicago kept pressing throughout the first half. They lead the Lions in shots 4-2 even though their only shot on target was their one goal. The attacks caused the Lions backline to become more physical, which lead to freshman defender Ally Weaver receiving a yellow card in the 25th minute for a late challenge.
The Lions offense couldn’t produce in the first 45 minutes, which was bookended by shots in the fourth and 42nd minutes. Neither attempt made a serious threat against Chicago sophomore goalkeeper Katie Donovan, who left midway through the first half after a hard collision, or Chicago freshman goalkeeper Miranda Malone.
During the 15-minute halftime intermission, the words spoken by coaches and players helped motivated DiPasquale and the rest of the team to push harder in the final half.
“Great things were said during halftime to help boost up our confidence and make us realize that we are the better team and that we need to start playing like that,” DiPasquale said.
“We came out the second half playing a lot stronger than the first half, but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to get the job done.”
The College outshot the Maroons 10-5 in the second half. Even after three rapid shots in the first three minutes, the Lions were able to keep the ball away from Chicago for a majority of regulation.
In the 71st minute, Goldman displayed her impressive ball control skills when she outmaneuvered two Chicago defenders to get a shot on goal just outside the box. The shot, however, was too weak and flew right at the keeper for an easy save.
Levering had a critical chance to even the score with around 17 minutes to play. She had a slight breakaway with the Chicago defense right behind her. After Malone came out to challenge her and missed the dive for the ball, it looked as though Levering had an open net. However, Levering’s touch to avoid the keeper gave the defense enough time to intercept and pressure her away from shooting.
The College earned more corner kicks than Chicago, giving them critical chances that were not capitalized on by the team.
The Chicago defense held on to reach the NCAA Division III national championship game, while the College returned home for the fifth time in program history as third place finalists.
Despite the ending not being what she wanted, DiPasquale said that she is proud of the team.
“We are more than just a team, we are a family,” DiPasquale said “We all have each other’s backs and truly care about each other. This team is special and different from other teams, which is why we were so successful this season. Every day when we step out on that field, we play for each other… We are all very sad that it is over, but we are so proud of everything we accomplished this year.”