College Soccer

Breakthrough: Western Women advance to regional championship

It’s been a bleak weekend for Washington state colleges in soccer. One-by-one our schools have been dropping out of the playoffs. Western Washington’s Vikings Women have gone against that trend, as the report below confirms.

The Vikings react joyfully after topping Sonoma State Sunday in California. (WWU photo)

ROHNERT PARK, Calif. - Forward Kristin Maris (Jr., Issaquah) scored in the 103rd minute, as the Western Washington University women’s soccer team upset Sonoma State University, 2-1 in overtime, in a West Regional semifinal of the NCAA Division II National Tournament between two nationally ranked teams Sunday afternoon at the Seawolf Soccer Field.

The Vikings, ranked No.23 nationally in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America/NCAA II Top 25 and the No.5 seed, improved to 19-3-0. WWU, which won both of its tourney games in overtime, advances to the regional championship contest Friday (1:30 p.m. MT) against nationally No.5-ranked and No.2 seed UC San Diego (15-2-3), in Denver, Colo.

Host Sonoma State, rated No.10 nationally and the No.1 seed, completed its season 16-3-2.

The game winner came less than three minutes into the second half of overtime. Catherine Miles (Fr., Anacortes) dribbled into the penalty area on the right side and reached the end line before cutting a pass back into the middle. Maris held off a defender to get a foot on the ball, and it slowly rolled into the net.

“I really don’t remember much about it,” said Maris, who scored her team-leading ninth goal of the season. “The ball came in from the right and I knew I was going to get there, so I just tried to redirect it, and the next thing I knew, it was in the back of the net.”

Maris had helped WWU open the scoring in the ninth minute, being brought down in the penalty area while attempting to shoot. Joana Houplin (Sr., Olympia) converted the penalty, her sixth goal of the year, driving a shot inside the left post.

“Sometimes having the bye like Sonoma did can be tricky, because you have to go through the nerves (of post-season),” said WWU coach Travis Connell (10th year, 121-58-19). “We had been through that on Friday, and that helped us at the beginning of the game.”

SSU nearly equalized barely 30 seconds later, as Ashley Martin got the ball behind the Viking defense only to put her first-touch shot off the crossbar from seven yards.

The Seawolves had an 11-9 advantage in shot attempts in a first half that featured numerous good chances for both teams. WWU defender Kayla Russ (Jr., Puyallup/Bellarmine Prep) played a key role in maintaining the Viking lead, twice clearing loose balls off the goal line.

The Vikings nearly doubled the lead five minutes into the second half, as a header by Brianna Jones (So., Bonney Lake) off a corner kick was cleared off the line by the Seawolves’ Gretel Amman.

SSU equalized in the 74th minute. Cara Curtin got free down the right side and played in a low cross to Elena Catania, who scored with a blast from 10 yards.

“They’re a very talented team, and they dominated sections of the game,” Connell said. “We knew it wasn’t going to end up 1-0.”

WWU had the first good chance in overtime, as in the 93rd minute a header by Catherine Miles (Fr., Anacortes) went just wide. But10 minutes later, Miles set up the game-winner, sending the Vikings to the next round.

“Our girls never back down, they really believe in themselves,” said Connell. “We lost on a late goal at Seattle Pacific, and since then, we’ve been determined not to let that happen again.”

WWU was outshot, 22-17, with conference Player of the Year goalkeeper Jamie Arthurs (Sr., Richland) making eight saves.

It is the first time since 2008 that the Vikings have reached the regional final. That season, they lost 1-0 to Seattle Pacific in overtime at Kirksville, Mo.

WWU, which won both the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles, advanced to the second round with a 2-1 overtime win over Cal Poly Pomona on Friday.

NCAA II National Tournament – Second Round Sunday, November 11, 2012 Seawolf Soccer Field/Rohnert Park, CA

Western Washington 2, Sonoma State 1 (OT)

Scoring – 1. WWU, Joana Houpin (penalty kick), 8:50; 2. SSU, Elena Catania (Cara Curtin), 73:28; 3. WWU, Kristin Maris (Catherine Miles), 102:55.

Shots – WWU 17, SSU 22.
Saves – WWU 11 (Jamie Arthurs 8, Team 3), SSU 3 (Alexis Sciacqua 2, Team 1).
Corner kicks – WWU 4, SSU 6.
Fouls – WWU 11, SSU 10.

Records:
Western Washington 19-3-0
Sonoma State 16-3-2

Next Game: vs. UC San Diego in NCAA II West Regional final Fri., Nov. 16, 1:30 p.m. MT at Denver, Colo., (host Metro State)

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