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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

AU women’s soccer knocks Cedarville out of tournament in 2-0 win

The Eagles move on to the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2004 season
Mike Hopkins
The Eagles huddle together with their hands in the air in preparation for second half action in the NCAA Tournament.

The year is 2004, and the Ashland University women’s soccer team is taking on the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in hopes of moving onto the third round of the NCAA Division II Postseason Tournament. After 90 minutes of action, the Eagles would pull off a 1-0 win, marking just the second time in program history the Eagles had won in the second round at the national stage.

As the saying goes, “History always repeats itself.” On Saturday, Nov. 18, for the third time in program history and the first time in 19 years, the Eagles would pull off a second-round victory in the NCAA Tournament. The win would come against Great Midwest Athletic Conference foe, the Cedarville Yellow Jackets, with the final score showcasing a 2-0 mark.

“This will be our eighth meeting in three years with Cedarville.  So heading into it, both of us are very familiar with each other,” said Eagle Head Coach Cayleb Paulino prior to the second-round matchup. “We have a lot of respect for Coach Meade and their program.  It is a battle of two really organized programs.”

Heading into the outing, the two teams had met two times earlier in the 2023 season. Those two meetings resulted in wins for the Eagles.

The first, occurring back on Sept. 30, marked a 3-1 dominating victory for the Eagles while the second, back on Nov. 11, was a 3-0 clean sheet win for goalkeeper Maddie Dolenga and the team in the conference tournament semi finals. In the two years prior to the current season, the Eagles defeated the Yellow Jackets in the conference championship.

With so much at stake, including a revenge storyline for the traveling Yellow Jackets, the battle at Ferguson Field did not disappoint.

To begin the outing, the Eagles came out swinging and took over the first five minutes of play. They pushed the ball down the field offensively, recording three shots with one ending up on goal.

The Eagles’ pressure only helped to guide the team forward with success as in the 19th minute, they would find the contests opening goal.

Throughout the 2023 season, they have dominated off set pieces and with forward McKinley Mendenhall in the corner for a corner kick, the Eagles were poised to find the first goal of the game. She would send the ball sailing towards the back post of the goal.

After substituting onto the field seconds ago, forward Sydney Polen would end up on the receiving end of the cross and blast the ball into the back netting. The goal would give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.

The rest of the first half would continue to be highlighted by the Eagles’ offense as the Yellow Jackets did not end up recording a shot until 30 minutes had gone by. With such high level of defensive play from the Eagles, the Yellow Jackets offense could rarely see an opening to capitalize on.

As the halftime break hit, the Eagles led 1-0.

When it came to shots, the Eagles drastically outweighed the Yellow Jackets, 8-2. Neither of the two shots from the opposition were on target, leaving little stress for Dolenga back in goal.

In the corner kicks category, the Eagles recorded three with zero given to the Yellow Jackets.

Heading into the second half, it would be critical for the Yellow Jackets to bring things back around and pick up the team’s offensive tempo.

However, unfortunately for them, that would not be the case.

The Eagles would only maintain the offensive prowl they established in the opening 45 minutes while capitalizing on mistakes made on the Yellow Jackets end.

On the Yellow Jackets half, with 18 minutes gone by in the second period of play, defender Carlie Stutzman would make a critical error, tripping up Mendenhall infont of the Yellow Jackets dugout. The foul would result in a yellow card being addressed to Stutzman, with midfielder Merrik Mihalek preparing to take the free kick.

With her right leg loaded up, she sent the ball deep towards the back post of the goal. On the run, midfielder Ella Schneider would be set up perfectly on the receiving end of the cross and drilled the ball into the top left corner for the second goal of the game.

The Eagles, with a head full of steam, went up 2-0 over the Yellow Jackets.

Through the following 27 minutes of action, the offense for the Eagles would start to relax, with Coach Paulino opting to move more players back defensively in order to protect the two-goal lead.

The much less pressure up top led to the Yellow Jackets receiving more chances to score, taking seven total shots in the second half with just three ending up on target. All three shots were easy saves for Dolenga.

Even with small chances, the Yellow Jackets were unable to convert, leading to the score from Schneider being the nail in the coffin.

The team was led by Schneider in the victory with three shots, two on goal and one finding the back netting. Defensively, goalkeeper Maddie Dolenga put together another great performance in goal recording three saves.

The win moves the team to 19-0-4 on the season, while ending the Yellow Jackets season with a record of 16-5-1. The Eagles move the all-time program series record to 7-2, with the Eagles winning the last four matchups.

The Eagles next look to take on an opponent yet to be determined on Thursday, Nov. 30 in the Midwest Regional Finals. Alongside the opponent, the time has yet to be set either.

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