Soccer team comes up short in tournament

The UW-Eau Claire women’s soccer team fell just short of winning the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament title on Saturday.

After advancing past UW-Whitewater in the semifinals on Friday, they lost for just the second time this season in the championship game against UW-Stevens Point.

In Friday’s game the Blugolds fell behind early, conceding a goal to Whitewater just three minutes into the game.

“Right after we gave up the goal I think it opened up everyone’s eyes,” junior Sam Krueger said. “It just reiterated that we can’t take any team lightly.”

Eau Claire bounced back only twelve minutes later as senior Liz Kooistra received a pass from senior Amy Smith and put in the equalizer.

The Blugolds continued to apply offensive pressure for the rest of the half as senior Jessica Millard and junior Shannon Conlin were each able to find the back of the net. Eau Claire went into the half with a 3-1 lead and control of the game.

After the break the Blugolds continued to control the momentum in the game. Fifteen minutes into the half sophomore Kelsey Figg added to the lead with an unassisted goal.

In the 70th minute Eau Claire was awarded a penalty kick and Smith was given the opportunity. She was able to convert it for a goal, and in the process became the Blugold’s all-time leading point and goal-scorer. With 49 career goals and 125 career points, she broke the record held since 1997 by Emily Mabbitt.

“I think it’s amazing to see how well she does and she makes such great opportunities for herself,” Krueger said. “I think it’s wonderful, she’s such a great player and I’m so proud of her.”

Eau Claire gave up one more goal before the conclusion of the game, but still came away with a 5-2 victory and advanced to the championship game on Saturday.

Facing Stevens Point, the only team who had beaten Eau Claire this year, the Blugolds wanted to avenge their previous defeat.

Less than three minutes into the game, Eau Claire was able to get on the board. Freshman Alyssa Walker scored her first goal of the season on a header that was assisted by sophomore Jamie Schiesel.

“We came out really well in the first half,” Krueger said. “We were playing like a team and had a lot of good chances for goals.”

From there the game started to slip away from the Blugolds as Stevens Point came up with their first goal in the 29th minute. The game remained tied 1-1 going into the break.

Twenty minutes into the second half Point was then able to break the tie with their second goal. Then bad luck got the better of the Blugolds in the 72nd minute as they put one in their own goal, increasing their deficit to two.

“In the second half it just seemed like we let up a bit,” Krueger said. “And then the goals seemed to come in at the wrong times and were unexpected.”

The score remained the same until the final whistle blew and Stevens Point became WIAC tournament champions with a 3-1 victory.

The Blugolds will need to quickly regroup as they begin their quest for a National Championship on Friday with their first NCAA regional game.

“We’re very much a team, we always play with a lot of class and we always try to look ahead and look at the positives,” Krueger said. “But I think our primary focus now is taking it one day at a time and getting ready for our next game.”