Having finished their regular season on a 6-0-2 run, the UW-Parkside women’s soccer team looked to continue a strong run into the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament. Their quarterfinal opponent Sunday afternoon, Southern Indiana, had played spoiler to a 0-0 draw at home late in the regular season. Being defensive minded in the match proved to be Southern Indiana’s inevitable downfall, as it was UW-Parkside who advanced with a solid 2-0 victory to advance into the GLVC semi-finals.
From the start, it appeared the weather would add an interesting dynamic to the contest. Sunday afternoon at Wood Road Field was a chilly one, with 18mph winds and light rain. UW-Parkside’s strategy of playing against the wind to start of the match might have played well into their hands. The first half was solidly controlled by UW-Parkside. The scoring opportunities were being generated by them and them alone, creating four corners and two free kicks on the edge of the penalty area.
All in all, the first half saw no goals but pure UW-Parkside attack. Southern Indiana was reduced to playing all but two players inside the penalty area. It was damage control style defending within the first half of play. For UW-Parkside, it wasn’t so much a question of if but when would they get the opening goal of the match.
The answer to that question came in the forty-ninth minute of the match. Natalie Brown put a stunning ball through to fellow senior midfielder Kristen Benson. The strike from Benson was inch perfect, as it curled on the ground into the far side netting. It was Benson’s fourth goal of the year, and thirteenth in her UW-Parkside career.
“That’s the biggest key,” said UW-Parkside women’s soccer head coach Troy Fabiano about their passing game. “If we can get movement off the ball we’ll be tough. You have to finish the chances you create, but movement off the ball is why we were so dangerous.”
With the opening tally on the board, Southern Indiana was forced out of their shell in order to find an equalizer. This is precisely what UW-Parkside wanted in order for their speed and passing abilities to put the game out of reach. Despite a surge by Southern Indiana after the opening goal, UW-Parkside stepped right back on the throttle and found their second goal in the sixty-second minute of play. After Shannon Becker zipped a ball into the box, Megan Owens took the ball off Southern Indiana’s Lavonia Lewis’ foot directly in front of the mouth of goal. Owens struck instantly, and left the box with UW-Parkside up two goals to the good. The assist to Shannon Becker, her forty-fifth career assist, put her in a tie with Allison Wild for the all-time assists record in program history.
The moment that intensified Southern Indiana’s frustrations came in the seventy-first minute when UW-Parkside’s Lauki’i Cheng brought down Susan Ellsperman. Considering the play, Ellsperman would have been free on goal if not for the challenge by Cheng. The booking was a yellow card, though a call for red from the Southern Indiana bench might have been legitimate. Consider the booking against UW-Parkside lucky in the grand scope of the GLVC tournament.
With the 2-0 victory over Southern Indiana, what lies ahead for the UW-Parkside women’s soccer team is a trip to Northern Kentucky University where they will be taking on Bellarmine in the semi-final match up. The two sides met at Bellarmine University earlier in the year. UW-Parkside was able to win that contest 1-0. If they can repeat that result, they would face either Quincy or, the hosts to the GLVC tournament, NKU; two teams UW-Parkside have not beaten this year. Still, it presents a similar scenario to last season’s GLVC tournament that saw UW-Parkside defeat NKU in the final. If the Rangers continue the way they have played in recent weeks, this is a team that might be getting hot at the right time of the year.
“I think we are probably playing our best soccer,” said coach Fabiano. “Hopefully we’re finding our stride. I think the confidence is there now. 12-2-2, semi-finals of the GLVC tournament, I think they’re pretty confident to beat anybody, and they should. We’ve been through it once already and we felt we didn’t play our best games on the games we didn’t get results. Confidence can be a great thing to have.”