On Wednesday, Nov. 2, the women’s soccer team welcomed Wartburg to the Rock Bowl for the Conference Tournament semi-final. The winner would move onto the final with the chance to play for an automatic bid into the NCAA national tournament.
Unfortunately for the Duhawks, they were on the side of a very tough PK shootout loss in this semi-final game that was reminiscent of the 2015 shoot-out Loras faced against Wartburg. Thanks to the Knights goalie who saved an outstanding four PK’s, the Duhawks had to wait to see if they would qualify for the 2016 NCAA Tournament. They were sitting at 12-3-3, so had very high hopes of being selected. It was a very tense five days to wait for the selection show on Monday, Nov. 7.
“We tried to keep things focused, but fun at the same time,” said senior Madie Avery. “We really wanted to keep spirits up. Since the team chemistry was so good this year, we wanted to make sure that carried us through the wait. I was so excited for the chance to play with these girls again.”
The girls made the NCAA Tournament and were drawn against a nationally ranked St. Thomas side, sitting at a very impressive record of 17-2-1. It was mid-way in the first half that Junior Gretchen Schutz delivered a great long pass to Lauren Bolnius, who re-directed the ball with her head back across for her fifth goal of the season.
After taking the lead, the Tommies had the next four shots in just 10 minutes, but were unable to beat senior goalkeeper Maria Siebels. In the 38th minute, Schutz won a free-kick around 35 yards from goal. Schutz, who has looked as deadly from long range as anyone in women’s D3 Soccer all year, shot the free-kick and was only denied by the cross-bar.
The second half saw much of the same with chances from both sides. However, the Tommies were unable to break down the Loras defense as they earned their 10th shutout of the year. Bolnius’ strike in the first half proved to be the difference, and the Duhawks moved on to face a very strong side in UW-Whitewater.
They had beaten the Duhawks 3-2 in a very close regular season game. The Warhawks entered this match up with an impressive 21-1 record, but Loras fancied their chances after being on the end of a very close matchup in the regular season and were keen to try and knock another nationally ranked side out of the NCAA tournament.
Sunday, Nov.13, saw the end of a very successful first season in charge from head coach Matt Pucci. The UW-Whitewater team proved to have too much offensive power. They were able to score three times against a Loras defense that had conceded just 10 goals prior to this match in the 2016 campaign. The Duhawks had their chances and registered 15 shots of their own to UW’s 16, but could not find the back of the net.
Head coach Matt Pucci had a great first year heading the women’s soccer program.
“It was a great year for the team. Every player had an important role, and everyone earned what we achieved,” said Pucci. “As always, we will lose quality and experienced seniors to graduation. All the future success of the program will largely reflect on what this year’s seniors have done for us, but at the same time it is up to our returning players to utilize this year’s experience to continue to push our program forward each year.”