Soccer falls short in conference

Number seven is supposed to be lucky, but Eau Claire’s seventh WIAC title matchup Saturday with UW-Stevens Point ended the same as the previous six meetings – with a Pointer victory.

Stevens Point scored early and held off the Blugolds to win 1-0 on its home field and capture its ninth conference crown in the last 10 seasons.

“It was an incredible game,” coach Sean Yengo said. “We played with them tooth and nail. If we could’ve taken advantage of some early opportunities it might have been a different story.”

The Blugolds were unable to capitalize on a few excellent scoring opportunities during the first 20 minutes of play, including a shot that hit the crossbar.

Soon after, at the 23-minute, 24-second mark, Mickey Jacobs of Stevens Point scored what Yengo called an “exceptional” goal to put the Pointers on top.

Eau Claire’s stifling defense and solid goaltending by freshman Megan Brady kept the Blugolds in the game despite Stevens Point outshooting them 20-9.

But the Blugolds couldn’t find the net and were left mystified by Stevens Point’s dominance once again.

Saturday’s loss was the 12th in a row against the Pointers, a streak dating back to Nov. 12, 1994. Stevens Point beat Eau Claire 1-0 in this year’s regular-season meeting, which was also at Stevens Point.

“The law of averages says we should have beaten them by now,” Yengo said. “Every time I leave there, I say ‘I don’t think I would’ve done anything differently.’ ”

The Blugolds aren’t the only ones getting bullied by the Pointers. Stevens Point has won 55 straight games against WIAC opponents, which ties an NCAA all-divisions record.

“They are just mentally tough,” senior Nikki Johnston said. “They like to try and psyche a lot of teams out. When you win that many games you have a mental edge.”

Eau Claire advanced to the WIAC final with a thrilling victory over UW-Oshkosh in Friday’s semifinal game at Stevens Point.

After 30 minutes of scoreless overtime and a tie score after seven penalty kicks from each team, Oshkosh failed to answer Blugold defender sophmore Maleia Damato’s goal in the eighth round of the shootout.

“It was a really intense game,” Johnston said. “It was a great feeling to finally beat them.”

Oshkosh beat the Blugolds earlier in the season 1-0 in double overtime.

The shootout was the first for the Blugolds since 1993 and the fifth in WIAC tournament history.

Freshman Kris Unterweger gave Eau Claire an early lead with a goal at the 7:02 mark. After the Titans answered with a goal at 14:33, Erika Thompson quickly put the Blugolds ahead again with a score at 15:13.

Eau Claire maintained a 2-1 lead until Oshkosh tied the game on a corner kick at 80:42.

The Blugolds ended the season at 10-5-4, a step down from last year’s mark of 15-5-0.

Despite the drop, Yengo believes his players have no reason to hang their heads.

“Our record wasn’t outstanding, but at the end of the season we were playing our best soccer,” Yengo said.

Johnston, one of five seniors (Chandra Butterfield, Sarah Pierringer, Erika Thompson and Tina Welle are the others), agreed with Yengo.

“In my four years playing here, this was definitely the strangest season,” Johnston said. “Even with our record, it was one of the best teams we’ve had. The ball just didn’t roll the right way for us.”