The Emory women’s soccer team advanced to the NCAA Division III semifinals for the first time in school history, edging Loras College (Iowa) 2-1 and Carnegie Mellon University (Penn.) in penalty kicks.
“We could not be more excited about beating two great teams such as Loras and Carnegie Mellon,” Head Coach Sue Patberg said. “They were tough games; between both of them, we had to play our best every minute of each game.”
The Eagles moved to 14-1-7 on the year, while the Duhawks and Tartans fell to 19-5 and 14-1-5 respectively.
The Carnegie Mellon game was exactly as advertised, with two of the top defenses squaring off and determined to relinquish no goals.
Possession was evenly matched throughout the duration of regular time, with both teams having 12 shots, five each on goal.
“The fact that we played them [CMU] twice in two weeks allowed them to match up well against us,” Patberg said. “Defensively, they were very physical; they did not make any mistakes, which gave us very few opportunities to capitalize.”
The shootout was an absolute nail-biter, with Emory needing 13 rounds to advance past the Tartans.
In the fifth round of the shootout, junior defenseman Lauren Gorodetsky was able to net her penalty kick, sending the shootout into extra kicks.
In the opening rounds of the extra free kicks, junior midfielder Kelly Costopoulos, sophomore forward Emily Feldman and senior midfielder Merril Bachouros were all able to convert their penalty kicks.
Knotted up at seven apiece heading into the ninth round, senior goalkeeper Kaele Leonard caught junior forward Cecilia Zischkau’s shot in midair.
However, with a chance to thread the needle, junior defenseman Caitlin Clark’s shot was saved by Carnegie Mellon junior goalkeeper Anna Albi.
Both the Eagles and Tartans converted their next three penalty kicks. Tied at 10, heading into the 13th round, the Eagles caught a break when junior defenseman Brittany Couture’s shot deflected off the post, giving the Eagle’s a chance to advance.
Sophomore midfielder Jennifer Grant came through in the clutch, netting the Eagle’s 11th and game-ending penalty kick that punched the ticket to the heralded Final Four.
“I was so nervous I could barely watch,” Patberg said. “I tried to breathe and was so stunned at the same time; it was truly an amazing feeling.”
The shootout was the fifth in Emory’s NCAA tournament history; the Eagles are now 3-2 in playoff shootouts. The 13 rounds were the most in the program’s history. The shutout was the 13th of the season and the third in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
In the Sweet 16 match-up versus Loras, the opening minutes of play consisted of even play by both teams, providing few goal scoring opportunities.
However, in the 39th minute, Feldman was able to steal a clearing attempt from the Loras defender, spring past the Duhawk’s last line of defense and net the ball in the right corner for the Eagle’s first goal of the game.
Just a minute later, Feldman was able to capitalize again, striking a ball in the near post. Feldman is now second among all Eagles with seven goals in the 2012 campaign, with three coming in the NCAA tournament.
“Emily really stepped up for us against Loras. Without Veronica there, she really took it upon herself to make it happen for us and score,” Patberg said. “She has really grown as a player and is doing things that she wasn’t at the beginning of the season.”
The Eagle’s defense was at its finest, holding the Duhawks to a 60 minute drought between the 14th and 74th minutes. In the 75th minute, freshman forward Ailish Rispin scored her sixth goal of the season on a high shot that Leonard could not handle.
After the weekend’s set of games, the Eagles moved to 4-0-4 against nationally ranked opponents this season. Senior Lee Bachouros played in her 79th game as an Eagle, two away from the all-time record held by Melanie Levy.
The Eagles will play 11th ranked Wheaton College (Ill.) in the Final Four on Friday Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. The semifinal match, along with the championship game, will be played at the Blossom Soccer Complex in San Antonio, Texas.
— By Drew Heuman-Gutman