The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Eagles prepare for first round of NCAA D-II Postseason Tournament

The Ashland University women’s soccer team enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed
Brynn Meisse
Eagle forward Sydney Polen takes a shot against the Timberwolves in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference Championship.

Although the Ashland University women’s soccer team came up short in a penalty kick shootout in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC) championship, 4-2, the team has secured a birth into the NCAA Division II Postseason Tournament.

The Eagles, who currently sit 17-0-4 on the season, are slotted in the No. 1 spot for the opening round of Midwest action as they prepare to take on No. 8 seeded Michigan Tech, a former Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) opponent.

It is a six-game, win or go home tournament,” said Head Coach Cayleb Paulino. “Just like we have approached the entire year, the goal this week is to go 2-0.  At this point in the year, you will get everyone’s best.”

The Eagles certainly were tested already prior to the NCAA Tournament, as just days ago the team competed in the conference championship, falling to the Northwood Timberwolves.

Through 90 minutes of action and 20 minutes of extra time, the two sides were unable to break past the other’s defense to find a goal as the game remained level at zeroes. The Eagles took 16 shots, while the Timberwolves took 11.

However, of those 11 shots, nine would be on target for the home team as Eagle goalkeeper Maddie Dolenga was tested at a high degree, making nine saves.

After regulation and extra time came and went, the two teams entered into a penalty kick shootout to decide who would take home the conference championship. Timberwolves goalkeeper Lindsay Jacob shined, making the opening two saves to propel her side to a win.

“When you get to that point in the game, anything can happen.  I thought we created enough chances to win it but unfortunately it just wasn’t our day.  Give credit to Northwood for getting the result,” said Paulino. “I thought the response from the group in the overtimes was great and we pushed to win it before pks but came up short.”

Even with the team falling short, Paulino believes his team was ready for the challenge and gave a high level of effort.

“I thought the group was prepared.  We knew on the road, against one of the best in the conference, it was going to be a difficult environment,” he said. “I thought there was a high level of focus from our group heading into the game on what exactly we needed to do to be successful.”

Heading into the NCAA Tournament, the Eagles have scored 50 goals while allowing just four on the season. This 46+ goal differential places them first in the country in that category, while they also sit No. 1 in goals allowed.

The goalkeeper duo of Mackenzie Simon and Dolenga have been critical for the teams success, making a total of 69 saves this season. Simon herself sits No. 1 in the country in goals-against average at the D-II level at just .220.

With the Eagles holding the Timberwolves nothing outside of the penalty kick shootout, Paulino believes his team’s defensive efforts this season are only going to propel them further ahead.

“To hold the second highest scoring team to 0 goals in two games against them this year, a great defensive effort from our group all game,” he said. “A lot of our younger kids got to experience what it is like in an NCAA game over the weekend and I think that is only going to build confidence for them heading into this week.”

On Thursday, Nov. 16, the Eagles will take on Michigan Tech in the opening round at Ferguson Field.

“The message to the group is exactly the same it has been all year, put yourself in a position to compete in the NCAA tournament,” said Paulino. ” Though we lost the auto qualification by not winning the tournament championship, we have put together a body of work throughout the season to allow us to continue to play in the NCAA tournament.”

For the two sides, this will be the 15th all-time meeting with the Eagles leading the series 8-5-1. The last time they faced off came in the 2020-2021 COVID-19 Pandemic season, with the Eagles coming out on top 2-1 in double overtime.

This season, the Huskies enter the postseason with an 8-4-7 overall record. They were knocked out in the quarterfinal round of the GLIAC tournament, just barely sneaking into the NCAA tournament.

The Eagles will look to take down the Huskies in hopes of snapping a five-year streak of being knocked out of the postseason in the first round.

“The goal for us is to compete at the national stage and the group is very excited for the opportunity.  We haven’t had that feeling of heart break the last two years heading into the NCAA Tournament,” said Paulino. “I think this is a new sense of motivation for the group to experience what it feels like to get knocked out.”

With one of the best regular seasons in program history behind the team, the Eagles shift the focus to Thursday’s game against the Huskies at Ferguson Field.

“I think we have tested the group against some of the best teams in the country and we are excited to compete at the national stage,” said Paulino.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All AU Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *