Nov. 11, 2007
Milwaukee, Wis. -
Second-seeded Loyola successfully defended its Horizon League Tournament title, rallying from a 2-0, second-half deficit to knock off host Milwaukee, 3-2 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw, in a stirring championship match this afternoon at Engelmann Field. With the win, the Ramblers (14-8-1) earn the Horizon League's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore striker Cynthia Morote-Ariza was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season.
"I cannot explain how proud I am for our student-athletes today," said head coach Frank Mateus. "To come back from 0-2 down on the road against a great team like Milwaukee says a lot about the character that this team possesses. I give a lot of credit to Milwaukee. They are a terrific team that is very well-coached and I hope that they can give our league another team in the NCAA Tournament."
The shootout came after 110 minutes of soccer that saw each team show extended periods of brilliance. Loyola had two excellent chances to open the scoring in the first 45 minutes, with Katie Heidenreich firing over the bar in the 29th minute and Morote-Ariza narrowly missing the far post on a low drive in the 41st minute. The last minutes of the first half, however, were almost a repeat of the first meeting this season, when the Panthers snatched a late goal en route to a 2-1 win. This time, however, Rambler keeper Colleen Dougherty was up to the task, making a fine save on a Beth Steuer header to keep the match scoreless heading into intermission.
A flurry of activity in the Loyola box early in the second half nearly got the home team on the scoreboard and the Panthers had a 54th minute goal disallowed for offsides. UWM continued to push forward and was able to open the scoring shortly thereafter as Sarah Talbert found the back of the net to give the Panthers a 1-0 on the hour mark. Loyola would find itself two goals down less than four minutes later, as Nicole Hirsch scored her first goal of the season, leaving the Ramblers with 26 minutes to mount a comeback. The first sign of life came in the 77th minute, when Morote-Ariza sent a diagonal ball to the far post for Alexia Murray to control and rocket into the net for her third goal of the year to cut the deficit in half. With Loyola come forward in numbers, Ashley Morawski, who scored the tournament-winner last year on this field, nearly scored the equalizer just two minutes later, firing a ball ticketed for the upper corner that UWM keeper Erin Kane had to punch over the bar. The Ramblers kept pushing and found themselves even after Julie Colhoff headed in a Morote-Ariza free kick in the 82nd minute, much to the delight of a vocal traveling contingent. After a scoreless final eight minutes of regulation and 20 more in overtime, the match moved to a penalty-kick shootout.
Loyola inserted the taller Lauren Sommer into the lineup at goalkeeper for the shootout and the Ramblers got a break as Joanna Solverson's opening kick for Milwaukee hit the left post. Katie Heidenreich got LU on the board in the opening round but Kane came up with a save to keep it even, 1-1, after two rounds. Both teams converted in round three, with Heather Lau converting for Loyola, and both teams missed the net in the fourth round to keep the score 2-all. Sommer came up with a big save on Louise Vraney in round five but Alexia Murray hit the crossbar in Loyola's half to extend the shootout. Kane stepped up to the spot for the Panthers in round six but Sommer came up big again, producing a wonderful toe save to give Loyola another chance to wrap it up and, with the title on her foot, freshman Laura Trevillian buried one in the right corner to give the Ramblers their third tournament title and second in succession.
"Surprisingly, I was very calm back there," said Sommer, who had only played 15 minutes in the net since Sept. 21. "The pressure is on the offensive player in that situation and I knew that if I could make one or two saves my teammates would make enough to pull us through."
"I had all the confidence in the world in Lauren in that situation," continued Mateus. "She made some unbelievable saves for us and, even though she is only a freshman, I knew Laura was going to come through."
Loyola will find out its NCAA destination tomorrow night when the NCAA unveils the 2007 bracket. The pairing will be announced live on ESPNews starting at 7 p.m. CT.