Women notch No. 1 seed in IIAC tourney

photo contributed

The women’s soccer team was 7-3 after the first week of play in October as they prepared to face a ranked Wartburg squad in Waverly. The Duhawks had some unfinished business to attend to, as the Knights finished their season last year in a heartbreaking penalty shootout in the Iowa Conference Tournament Championship match. This outcome denied the Duhawks an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Oct. 11 delivered a very competitive game that saw no goals scored in 110 minutes from either side. It was a very closely fought match in which the Knights edged the shot count 25-23 and 13 on goal to Loras’ 11. This left both teams with overall records of 7-3-1, but Loras had the advantage in the conference at 3-0-1.

Loras had a short break after the Wartburg game before having to play three games in five days. Two of these were conference match-ups. First came a Buena Vista side that featured an offensive threat of the Duhawks, registering 20 shots on goal. At the same time, the Loras defense held strong to keep the shutout, allowing just two shots on goal. The Duhawks won, 3-0.

Loras then traveled to Webster for their last regular season non-conference game of the year. They came away with a 1-0 win to put them at 9-3-1 in the season. A two-day turnaround had the women facing Coe. Thanks to goals from junior Lauren Bolnius and sophomore Elizabeth Mills in the first half, the women sealed a 2-0 victory. A win against Simpson came next as the team put five past the Storm in another convincing conference win.

This four-game winning streak came as part of a run that saw a combined total of just nine shots on goal from the opposing teams and no goals against the Loras defense.

“I would say the keys to our defense this year would be our communication and confidence in one another,” said senior goalkeeper Maria Siebels. “We go into each half with the mindset that we just have to win the half, have faith in each other and back one another up.”

Tuesday, Oct. 25, was the last of the regular season games for Loras against Luther. Both of these teams were sitting at the top of the conference undefeated with records of 6-0-1. The regular season Conference Champions would be decided after this match-up.

Luther started the game strong, registering three shots in the first 10 minutes. Loras’ first opportunity came in the 12th minute when forward Maura Walsh played a fantastic through ball to Junior Gretchen Schutz. Schutz has been critical from distance this year, however, her shot went just wide of the post. Both teams had opportunities as the half went on, and it was the Norse that broke the deadlock direct from a corner kick.

The second half was much of the same. It was in the 60th minute that Loras was finally rewarded through Mills finding the back of the net for her sixth goal of the season.

The game entered overtime as the teams could not be separated. There were fewer opportunities in the two 10-minute periods that concluded the game. The Norse that had an opportunity in the first minute, but senior goalkeeper Siebels made one of the saves of her life to deny Luther the regular season conference championship.

With the match ending in a tie, the two sides share the 2016 regular season conference championship  title and both had a well-deserved bye in the first round of the conference tournament. The Duhawks earned the number one seed in the conference and will face Wartburg in the semifinals. A win against the Knights will advance Loras to the conference tournament championship on Saturday, Nov. 5.

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