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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Eagles push past Michigan Tech in first round of NCAA Tournament, 3-0

The AU women’s soccer team moves on to the second round for the first time since
Ben Nichols
Ashland University women’s soccer forward McKinley Mendenhall takes a corner kick for the Eagles.

The Ashland University women’s soccer team competed in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Quarterfinals at Ferguson Field against the Michigan Tech Huskies. The outing was played on Thursday, Nov. 16, with the two sides going toe-to-toe in hopes of moving on to the tournament’s next round.

When all was said and done, it was the Eagles prevailing as an intense display of offensive production led the team to a 3-0 victory.

At this point in the year, you are going to get everyone’s best,” said Head Coach Cayleb Paulino ahead of the outing. “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.”

Prior to Thursdays meeting, the two teams had played each other 14 times since 2010, with the Eagles leading the program series 8-5-1. The last time they met was back on April 1, 2021, with the outing heading into double overtime and the Eagles leaving with a 2-1 win.

When the two finally met for the first time in two years, they both came out swinging.

To begin, the Eagles came out and pushed the pace of the offensively as the forward duo of Dani Hicks and McKinley Mendenhall attempted to open the game up with a score.

Throughout the first 10 minutes of action, the two sides went back and forth attempting to find the first score.

In the 13th minute, off an incredible corner kick from Mendenhall, the ball would end up in the back netting. With the Eagles third corner kick of the game, she played the ball to the front of the six-yard box, with midfielder Ella Schneider jumping up to head the ball back into play.

Somehow, someway, the ball was placed perfectly into the bottom left corner and past the fingertips of goalkeeper Gracie VanLangevelde for the opening goal.

With the Eagles leading early 1-0 infront of the team’s home crowd, they only further grew momentum.

The remainder of the first half was highlighted by back and forth action, with the Eagles holding possession on the Huskies side of the field for a large portion of first half time.

In just the team’s third shot of the game, forward Sydney Polen would find the second goal of the game as she crashed the box, colliding with VanLangevelde to push the ball into the net.

The ball ended up there after a perfect cross from defender Clara Richardson bounced just short of the goal line, catching the goalkeeper off guard before Polen finished the job.

Heading into halftime, the Huskies led the Eagles in shots taken, 6-3. However, the Eagles produced a much higher level of poise defensively.

The Eagles were led by Polen and Schneider who both found a goal a piece.

Kicking off the second half of action, the Huskies received possession to start in hopes of rebuilding the outing and bringing it back level.

Through the opening four minutes of play, the Huskies shined as they kept the ball on the Eagles side of the field. Unfortunately, none of the team’s opportunities resulted in real danger for a goal to be found.

After the opening few minutes of second half action, the Eagles took back control as they continued to possess the ball in the midfield while making small runs onto the Huskies half.

In the 52nd minute, the Eagles took the team’s fifth corner kick of the half, keeping the pressure on the Huskies defense.

While they were unable to find the back netting, they continued to keep the tempo high offensively.

Just five minutes later, the Eagles would find the team’s third and final goal off the foot of freshman midfielder Tori Haggit. Her shot would scream past the goalkeeper and barrel into the bottom right corner of the goal.

After the team’s third goal, they would coast through the remaining 33 minutes of play and waltz to a victory.

Even with the loss, the Huskies outshot the Eagles 13-7 while also putting one more shot on goal, 6-5. When it came to corner kicks the Eagles dominated, 11-1.

“I thought last night the group really bought into the scouting report,” said Paulino. “We did a really good job eliminating what Tech is good at and we created constant pressure on their end with set pieces.”

To finish the game, Eagle goalkeeper Maddie Dolenga led the team with six saves while the goals were scored by Polen, Schneider and Haggit. For Dolenga and the Eagle defense, that is the team’s seventh shutout in a row.

The 3-0 win for the Eagles moves them to 18-0-4 on the season, ending a five-year first round exit streak in the NCAA D-II Postseason Tournament. They will appear in the second round of the tournament for the first time since the 2004 season.

They will next look to take on the Cedarville University Yellow Jackets at Ferguson Field on Saturday, Nov. 18, with kickoff set for 3:00 P.M.

“This will be our eighth meeting in 3 years with Cedarville,” said Paulino. “So heading into it, both of us are very familiar with each other.  We have a lot of respect for Coach Meade and their program.  It is a battle of two really organized programs.”
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