Three to one shootout eliminates Blugolds

Renee Rosenow

Even without conceding a goal in either playoff game, the UW-Eau Claire women’s soccer team’s season was narrowly ended.

The first NCAA Regional game came against Carthage on Friday afternoon and resulted in a 3-0 victory for the Blugolds.

Eau Claire struck first in the 26th minute as freshman Rachel Nerison scored her 14th goal of the season. Nerison was fed the ball by senior Liz Kooistra who picked up her 11th assist on the year.

A main goal for the Blugolds was to get off to a fast start.”We really wanted to start off scoring early,” senior Allie Rivard said. “It was great getting that first goal.”

Neither team was able to get an offensive rhythm going for the rest of the half, and the score remained 1-0 going into the break.

In a hard fought second half both teams continued to struggle putting the ball in the net.

With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, senior Amy Smith scored her 22nd goal of the year, adding most goals and points scored in a single season to her Eau Claire record. The goal was assisted by Nerison.

“Rachel (Nerison) made a run up the side and I told her to hold onto the ball,” Smith said. “Then I overlapped her, she gave me a beautiful ball, and I was able to get to go in.”

As the final seconds of the game wound down, freshman Alyssa Walker got the ball on a pass from Smith and put it into the back of the net. The goal was the second of the season for Walker.

The referee blew the whistle just a few minutes later and the Blugolds advanced to the next round.

Before the game Eau Claire changed formations from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 with the hopes of having a more offensive style of play.

At the same time this meant the team would obviously be less defensive, but Rivard, the goalkeeper, thought the team adjusted well.

“Defensively it was really important that we worked harder for each other,” Rivard said. “We worked really well together with the new system.”

Rivard played the entire game in goal and recorded her ninth clean sheet of the season.

After Friday’s triumph the Blugolds advanced to their second NCAA Regional game against Wheaton (Ill.). This was the third time in the last four postseasons the teams faced each other, with Wheaton winning both contests in 2005 and 2006.

However, earlier this season the teams clashed in a battle that resulted in a 2-2 tie after two overtime periods.

The playoff game turned out to be equally as even of a match.

“Saturday was a really hard fought game to the end,” Rivard said. “It was just really competitive, and tough and a fun game to play … everyone played their hearts out.”

After both halves and two overtimes, both teams were unable to score in 110 minutes of play.

Although the score was even, Wheaton controlled the game offensively and outshot Eau Claire 26-7.

Because of the defensive struggle, Smith thought Rivard was the main reason the team even made it to overtime.

“Saturday was the best I think I’ve ever seen any goalie play, ever. We probably should have lost the game four or five to nothing,” Smith said. “Rivard was just on her game and she saved our (butts).”

From there both teams went to a shootout.

Eau Claire shot first and Kooistra was able to convert her chance for a goal. Wheaton then answered right after with a goal of their own.

In the second round Rivard shot for the Blugolds but was denied by a save from Wheaton’s keeper. Wheaton couldn’t be stopped again, and put in their shot in the second round as well.

Senior Allison Muer shot in the third round for Eau Claire but was unable to score, while Wheaton netted their chance again. After three rounds Wheaton led 3-1 and needed just one more goal or one more miss by the Blugolds to advance.

Smith was up next for Eau Claire and she ripped her shot to the corner. The Wheaton goalkeeper made a far save and was able to tip the ball to the side of the post, eliminating the Blugolds in the process.

After starting the season breaking the women’s soccer record for most consecutive games without a loss, at 14, they finished their season with an 18-2-4 record. The Blugolds will return 19 of 27 players next year and will look to have another great season.