Soccer’s NCAA Tournament Run Comes to an End in the National Semifinals
The incredible postseason run for the Wesleyan women’s soccer team came to an unfortunate end in the national semifinals on Friday as the No. 14 nationally-ranked Cardinals were defeated by the No. 1 ranked TCNJ Lions, 1-0, from the UNC Greensboro Soccer Stadium. Wesleyan (18-2-2) concludes a historic season that featured program-firsts and records galore while the Lions (21-0-2) will vie for the fourth NCAA title in program history tomorrow against Christopher Newport.
Facing a juggernaut of an opponent in the top-ranked Lions, the Cardinals were the ones on the front foot right from the opening whistle as Wesleyan generated their first corner kick just 1:26 into the game. The scoring chances were weighted heavily in Wesleyan’s favor in the early going as Emily Ribatt ’21, G’22 saw a pair of shots whiz over the crossbar while Audrey Lavey ’23 had a shot attempt off a corner kick bang into a few TCNJ defender’s legs from close range being cleared away.
TCNJ didn’t garner a corner kick until the 25th minute as a Nikki Butler shot went out left on the Lion’s first set piece of the game. On the other end, it was Grace Devanny ’23 who had a prime scoring chance as a cross was whipped over the TCNJ defense to the far post where the Cardinal forward ran onto the ball. Needing a finish with her left shoot, the naturally right-footed forward couldn’t hit the target as the shot from close range laced by the left post.
Even with the bevy of the scoring chances in the opening 45 minutes, the best scoring chance came off the foot of TCNJ’s Jessica O’Brien as the ball came to her foot along the left side, just inside the 18. With an all-out scramble from the Cardinal defenders to get a block on the O’Brien shot, the attempt made it through the traffic and was hit on-target but Devanny was there to save the ball off the line and keep the game scoreless heading into halftime.
At the start of the second half, Wesleyan continued to hold the ball in the early going as Isabelle Martin ’23 saw an attempt just 1:50 into the stanza blocked while Lavey put a shot on-target that was turned aside by TCNJ keeper Alexandra Panasuk.
It wasn’t until 12+ minutes into the second half when TCNJ started to find their foot on the attacking end as they generated two corner kicks and four shot attempts in just a 4+ minute span. And the breakthrough came moments later as after Wesleyan didn’t get a foul call on Devanny twice in the box, Remi Feuerman ’22 was whistled for a foul only seconds later with TCNJ having a free kick from 40 yards out right in front of their bench. The ball was lofted towards the box where Amelia Curtis headed the ball back to Julia Obst who’s strike found the bottom corner.
Now needing a goal against a team that has allowed just six in 23 games all season, Wesleyan was up against it as TCNJ’s defense held serve throughout the remaining 25+ minutes and limited the Cardinals to no real quality scoring chances. A free kick from 30+ yards out found its way into the box but Panasuk came off her line to snag the loose ball in the air which is the closest Wesleyan came to a equalizer in the remainder of play.
The game finished with a 15-14 shot total advantage in favor of TCNJ but Wesleyan had a 11-3 shot advantage in the first half but just couldn’t convert several prime scoring chances.
Wesleyan’s 2021 season goes down as easily the best in program history, with the Cardinals setting new program records in every major statistical category including wins, NESCAC wins, goals, assists, points, shots, shutouts, unbeaten streak, win streak and did so while playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in team history.