No. 5 Wheaton again tops Duhawks

The women’s soccer team greeted perennial power Wheaton as its opponent during an eventful day Saturday at the Rock Bowl  that included one football game and two soccer games). 

The weather was not favorable, but it did not take anything away from the appeal of the competition. With Wheaton coming to town, the Loras women had plenty of motivation.

Sadly, Wheaton again got the better of the Duhawks. 

On the positive side, however, the Duhawks started the season with five straight wins in dominating fashion, outscoring their opponents 16-1 during the stretch.

Sophomore forward Ryleigh O’Brien attempts to hold off two Wheaton College defenders past Saturday at the Rock Bowl. Wheaton, ranked No. 5 in the nation, beat Loras. Wheaton also has ended Loras’ season during the past two postseason tournaments.

The start to the season was in line with the way they started last season, when they performed well enough to reached the regional finals of the NCAA Division III Championships only to lose to none other than Wheaton.

There can be little doubt that Wheaton has been a thorn in the side of the Duhawks, having now won seven of its nine matches against Loras. Wheaton also has defeated Loras all three times that the two teams have faced off during the postseason, including the past two seasons.

The two programs often are ranked among the top 25 teams in Division III when they play, although Wheaton frequently has been a top-10 team since first playing Loras in 2013. When they met Saturday, Loras was the No. 17th-ranked team in the nation, while Wheaton had the swagger of a team ranked No. 5 in the country.

This rivalry between the two teams is on a par with the way the men’s soccer team  views the University of Chicago, which ironically is the only team to defeat the Loras men so far this season.

Concerning the women’s match itself, it didn’t take Wheaton long to open the scoring. Wheaton pressured the Duhawks early, taking four shots during the first 10 minutes of play, and Thunder forward Molly Thorne found the net. Wheaton had 14 shots on goal in the first half, and senior goalkeeper Kaylee Coble was busy defending the net. 

Midway through the first half, Loras put Wheaton on the defensive, but none of the Duhawks’ four shots found the net. The Thunder goalkeeper was impressive in blocking an equally impressive shot by junior Brynn Jacobi at the 24th minute.

Loras was fortunate to be down just 1-0 after the first half, and the number of shots on goal was much more even in the second half. Nonetheless, Wheaton scored two more goals to beat Loras 3-0, a score that was somewhat surprising considering the closely fought matches that the two teams have come to expect.

The Duhawks now are looking to bounce back from Saturday’s disappointment. They will travel today to battle the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, then they will host Coe in its conference opener Saturday at the Rock Bowl. That match is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.

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