Tigers Blank Second-Ranked Bishops; Face Wheaton in Great Lakes Final
DELAWARE, OHIO -- If defense wins championships, then the DePauw women's soccer team is poised for a run at this year's NCAA Division III title. The Tigers gave everything they had in blanking second-ranked and previously unbeaten (19-0) Ohio Wesleyan 1-0 on the Battling Bishops' home turf.
The win lifted the 16-2-2 Tigers to the Great Lakes Region finals tonight at 7 p.m. at Ohio Wesleyan's Roy Rike Field against 18-2-1 Wheaton College. Wheaton defeated Kalamazoo 2-1 in two overtimes in Friday's first game. The teams met on September 4 at Wheaton with the Crusaders winning 2-0.
The teams battled through an even first half with Ohio Wesleyan narrowly outshooting the Tigers 4-3, while DePauw held a 3-1 advantage in corners in the 0-0 tie.
Junior Beth Walse scorched a rocket from 20 yards out into the upper left corner of the goal at 60:05 on a pass back from junior Kristi Merrill to give the Tigers the lead which is something they have never relinquished this season.
"I was lucky," Walse humbly admitted. "We practice pass backs and I just got one. It feels good."
"What a great shot," DePauw coach John Carter said. "And she's done it all year and that's why I think she's going to be an all-American. The game was far from over at that point. In fact, it was just beginning as the OWU stepped up their attack -- an attack led by sophomore Katy Sturtz who ranks fifth in Division III with 1.63 goals per game (31 goals in 19 games).
The final 11 minutes of the contest were a constant challenge for the Tigers' backs and senior goalkeeper Erica Henrich as the Bishops' attack was relentless. Henrich made two huge saves in the 80th minute and another in the 82nd. One of those shots elicited a roar from the host's sideline and fans until Henrich pulled it off the line.
A key moment occurred with just over three minutes to play when freshman back Brigid Roche was tackled and forced out of the game with an ankle injury. Henrich made yet another save with 2:45 left, before the Bishops had one more solid chance at a score. The Tigers were called for a foul just outside of the box, but Emmy Bradford's free kick sailed high with 1:28 remaining and the Tigers were able to hold on for the upset win.
"After each one I kept thinking I couldn't do this anymore then I'd make another save and kept getting up and thinking I couldn't do this anymore," Henrich said. "Sometimes you just play really well and I was just reacting really well to the ball today."
"In the second half once we got that goal we knew they (OWU) were going to come," Carter said. "Erica made some huge saves. Defensively, I thought we played well. That's why we've only given up five goals this year."
The Tigers were the first team to shut out Ohio Wesleyan in the last 41 games dating back to 1997 and only the second to hold Sturtz without a point in her collegiate career.
"Everybody played so hard," Henrich said. "There were times when people would miss their marks, but there was always somebody back to help them out. Lizzie (Ephraim) did a great job. Our marking backs did a great job. Our midfield came back, the forwards were coming back to play defense. I had a whole lot of help out there."
OWU outhshot the Tigers 12-1 in the second half, but that one sent the Tigers into the regional finals.
"We have been in these battles all year," Carter said."That made a difference. We knew that we could hold this thing out because we've done it. And we were lucky. To win in the national tournament you have to be good and lucky.