Big Game Snapshot: Women's Soccer Upsets Redlands for SCIAC Tournament Win, Advance to NCAAs
After an up-and-down regular season, where the Athenas soccer squad held first place in the SCIAC, then dropped down to the middle of the pack, the Athenas garnered a three seed for the season-ending tournament. The winner clinched an automatic bid to NCAAs, while the rest likely hung up their cleats. The Athenas took on Cal Lutheran in the semifinals. During the regular season, the women split the series with the Regals, winning 3-0 and losing 0-1. The Athenas thoroughly dominated regulation, outshooting Cal Lu 16-5, but did not find the back of the net. The teams went into the first OT deadlocked at 0-0. Again, the Athenas played solid soccer, but they could not put one through in either overtime, and so they entered a best-of-five penalty kick shootout with their season on the line.
The Athenas went first, and leading goal-scorer Laura Hagen (CMC SO) missed wide. Not an auspicious start, but her miss was matched by Cal Lu’s. Both teams converted their second and third tries, and then Courtney Funk (SCR JR) ripped a shot to put the Athenas up 3-2. It would prove to be the clincher, as goalie Camila Friedman-Gerlicz (CMC JR) saved the Regals’ fourth and their fifth sailed wide.
Next up was rival Redlands, another team with whom the Athenas split the regular season series 1-1. Redlands had beaten CMS just a week before on their own turf, and the Lady Bulldogs were the SCIAC tournament’s top seed. Redlands outplayed the Athenas in the opening period, outshooting them 10-3. Friedman-Gerlicz and a stingy defense did not let any of those shots through, and the teams entered halftime in a scoreless tie.
The second half started quickly. About ten minutes in, Hagen saw an opportunity from outside the box and had a go…finally! Her shot sailed past the keeper’s outstretched arms, and the Athenas were not 30 minutes from upsetting the Lady Bulldogs and punching their ticket to NCAAs. The defense held strong, and Friedman-Gerlicz denied Redlands a handful more times for the win.
It was the second time in three years the Athenas have won the SCIAC tournament as an underdog #3 seed. In the opening round of NCAAs, the ladies will play Saturday night at 5pm against Hardin-Simmons of Texas. The regional tournament is puzzlingly being hosted at Redlands, who slipped into the tournament with an at-large bid, but the Athenas have proved that they can win big games away from Pritzlaff Field, and are hungry for another showdown. Good luck to the Athenas!