The Mary Washington girls took to the field against strong competition last Saturday, defeating Stevenson University on penalty kicks after regulation and two overtimes were not enough to settle the contest. The victory brought the Eagles their 13th Capital Athletic Conference championship in school history.
Mary Washington quickly found themselves in a deficit in Saturday’s contest, as they were down by a 2-0 margin less than 30 minutes into the game after an unassisted goal by Stevenson’s Stephanie Eyler at 7:51 and another by Heather Redding at 29:08.
The Eagles were not to be outplayed, however, and a score by sophomore forward Bridget Dooley off of sophomore forward Nicole Dierkes’ assist at 33:10 cut the Stevenson lead in half. The tying UMW goal came just under the wire, with a mere 1:43 remaining in regulation before junior midfielder Sarah Tryon kissed the net with a goal assisted by sophomore midfielder Becky Clark.
After two scoreless overtimes, the Eagles were forced into their second penalty kick situation in as many games. The Eagles placed sophomore Grace Rosales into goal, who allowed only two of five Stevenson shots to pass by her. UMW got successful goals from freshman midfielder Meghan Seelye, junior forward Chrissy Reardon, senior forward Kate Parvin and freshman defender Lily Briedis-Ruiz.
Coach Corey Hewson was excited for his team after the thrilling victory.
“Our girls were the better team against Stevenson,” Hewson said. “We had already played the best team in the conference in Salisbury, and we knew we had the capability to do it again.”
Sophomore defender Karen Strat explained how the Eagles were able to achieve the victory.
“Keeping possession and switching the ball from one side of the field to another is what we do best,” Strat said. “When we do it well, it works. We got off to a slow start, two unanswered goals against us within 30 minutes definitely was a bit of a setback. I think we all got a little nervous after that. Once we scored, our momentum and possession game started to pick up.”
Stevenson outshot the Eagles by a 13-11 margin in the game, and had eight corners to UMW’s five. Sophomore goalie Tina Brehm managed five saves for UMW, while Stevenson’s Lauren Weitzman had four saves.
Hewson was quick to acclaim the play not just of individual standouts, but the strong team play the Eagles exhibited as well.
“[Senior midfielder] Katelyn Shank played an absolute blinder of a game,” Hewson said. “She had outstanding defense and great intensity on the counterattack. Lily Ruiz started as a role player, and came up huge for us [in Saturday’s win]. We’re a young team, but we gel on the field and understand each other. It’s not always pretty, but sometimes it is. These girls are not willing to quit, they are always battling. They were down, and they kept going. I was proud to see them keep fighting. These girls worked their asses off, pulled off a stunner, and the rest is really history.”
Strat carried that enthusiasm through in describing the next steps for the Eagles.
“I wouldn’t say we’re nervous at all. This is kind of like the bonus part of the season. We won the CAC’s and no one can take that away from us.”
The Eagles will be advancing to the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, being played in Maryville, Tenn. It is their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004, and the first under Hewson.
Going into the next game, both Hewson and Strat had plenty to say about what it took for the team to get this far.
“A lot of fans might not realize what it takes to get this far,” Hewson said. “Practice has some heartache, but it leads to moments that you’ll never forget. You have your ups and downs, but things are clicking, and we’re still playing.”
“UMW was the women’s soccer team to beat a few years ago,” Strat said. “You can look at our past CAC championships…we have quite the legacy. It’s the rivalries and our legacy that many people may not know about. I’m hoping we can have another CAC winning streak the next few years.”
The girls take the field today in the first round of the tournament against Maryville College, holders of a 13-4-1 record. The winner of this game faces Trinity University in Trinity, Texas. Trinity has a perfect 16-0-0 record and holds the top seed in the tournament.