In a photo finish at the end of regular season play in the Big Sky, the Weber State University women’s soccer team went into last week’s play in a fight for the third seed heading into the postseason tournament and got what they needed.
WSU’s first and most important match was on Friday, when the Wildcats picked up a 1-1 draw against the University of Northern Colorado, one of the other teams vying for that third spot. Then, the season wrapped up this past Sunday in a 3-0 win over the last-place University of North Dakota.
Friday’s match against UNC was crucial, as both teams were tied for third place. Coming into the game, the Wildcats would have loved to pick up a win to solidify their position heading into the Big Sky Tournament, but UNC had them against the ropes early.
The Bears surprised the Wildcats with a goal coming just two minutes into the start of the game. Adrienne Jordan of UNC passed the ball to junior Juliana Grover around midfield. Grover then drove the ball downfield and finished with a far shot landing in the net.
Despite outshooting the Bears for the remainder of the half at 6-3, the Wildcats couldn’t equalize before heading into the break.
With the pressure surmounting, Mackenzie Harrison once again had the answer for the Wildcats, knocking in her eighth goal of the season in the 61st minute. WSU’s Brecken Holbrook passed the ball up to Harrison, and the UNC keeper tried to contest the pass but mistimed it. Harrison recognized this and chipped the ball over her head to even up the match at 1-1, which was eventually the final score.
Heading into Sunday’s match, WSU was in a three-way tie for third place between UNC and Idaho State University. With a win, the Wildcats would secure that third-place spot, as they own the tiebreaker between the two teams. With a loss, WSU would have still been able to make the postseason, but only if the match between ISU and UNC resulted in any way other than a draw.
Neither happened, as WSU rolled over UND 3-0, and UNC knocked ISU out of the tournament with a 2-0 win.
Harrison scored yet again to get her ninth goal of the year, making her the conference leader in goals scored and overall points this season.
Stacy Bair picked up the remaining two goals for WSU, doubling her goal total for the season to four.
“The girls stepped up today and took control early and never looked back,” said WSU coach Tim Crompton. “We are excited to qualify for the conference tournament, and know it is no small task to get into the Big Sky tournament.”
The Wildcats will take on second-place Northern Arizona University in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament on Nov. 7. During the regular season, WSU beat the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff, Ariz., 2-1.
“We may have been emotionally drained from Friday night’s win, and the discipline has to be there to mentally prepare for the next game,” said NAU head coach Andre Luciano back on Oct. 6, referring to NAU’s 2-1 score over ISU.
With no more matches between now and the semifinal on Nov. 7, being emotionally drained shouldn’t be a problem for the Lumberjacks.
At the time, the Wildcats were coming off of their first conference loss of the season to Southern Utah University.
Could the loss have acted as the fuel behind the fire in the win against NAU? Do those factors even matter going into the tournament? Can WSU stack up against the second-best defense and offense twice in the same year? On Nov. 7, these questions will be answered as the Wildcats try to take the next step to a Big Sky Championship.