Women's Soccer Semifinals (Nov. 6)
(2) Detroit 1, (3) Oakland 0 (OT)
(1) Valparaiso 2, (4) Green Bay 0
VALPARAISO, IND. -- Detroit and Valparaiso prevailed on a cold and windy Thursday night at Brown Field to setup a matchup between the top-two seeds in the tournament in Saturday's championship match.
The Titans opened the evening with an overtime victory over third-seed Oakland, 1-0. With a blustery wind negating both teams offenses, the match went to overtime and seemed destined for penalty kicks. The Titans prevailed when First-Team All-League member Alyssa Riley beat the Oakland defense and was taken down in the box to setup a penalty kick. Alyssa Lotito converted the kick to send the Titans to the championship match.
In the second semifinal, top-seed and host Valparaiso controlled play to defeat fourth-seed Green Bay, 2-0. The Crusaders broke through in the 21st minute when April Cronin converted her eighth goal of the season. Horizon League Freshamn of the Year Vanesa Abad gave Valpo its insurance goal in the 72nd minute.
The championship match appearance is the first for Detroit since the 2006 season and the first for Valparaiso since 2009. This is the first time since 2010 that the top two seeds in the tournament have advanced to the championship match. The last four championships pitting the No. 2 seed against the No. 1 seed have been won by the No. 2 seed (2006, 07, 08, 10).
Detroit 1, Oakland 0 (OT)
The University of Detroit Mercy women's soccer team advanced to the Horizon League Championship title game Thursday evening, defeating rival Oakland, 1-0, in overtime in the tournament semifinal game played in windy and chilly conditions on Brown Field. It's the second time this season that Detroit (9-8-1) has earned an overtime victory over the Golden Grizzlies (6-11-3) as the red, white and blue downed Oakland, 2-1, at home back on Oct. 22.
The Titans reach the championship game of the Horizon League for the seventh time in program history and Detroit has earned a pair of tournament championships (1995, 2004). The last appearance for UDM was in 2006, when the Titans fell to Loyola.
Neither team scored in regulation, pushing the match to overtime. Late in the first overtime session, senior midfielder Alyssa Riley (Whitby, Ont. / Father Leo J. Austin) was tackled inside the box after finding a seam in the defense and sprinting towards the goal. Detroit was granted a penalty kick with 1:02 left in the overtime period.
Junior defender Alyssa Lotito (Macomb, Mich. / Eisenhower) took the kick and fired the ball to the left side of the net past Oakland goalkeeper Alison Holland, ending the match and giving Detroit its first Horizon League semifinal win since 2006. Lotito's penalty kick goal was also her second of the season.
"I'm proud of the girls," Detroit head coach Mike Lupenec said. "I thought we had some quality chances in the first half of overtime. It was anybody's game and the girls fought hard and it came down to Riley breaking away and being fouled. We beat a good Oakland team. They were here for a reason. It was great for some of these girls that have been knocking on the door in getting to the title game. They have been a big part of the success."
Lupenec credited the back line with another strong game. Detroit posted its seventh shutout of the season and won its fifth game in overtime.
"They've been solid all year," Lupenec said of the back line, including freshman goalkeeper Marina Manzo. "To shutout a quality Oakland side with good offensive players, it's a testament to these players. We limited them to corner and set pieces outside the box. It's a credit to what they've done all year. A lot of times back lines don't get the credit. Without the back line this year, we wouldn't be in the final right now."
The Titans had six shots in the first half, three of them on goal. Detroit junior Jennifer Borawski (Northville, Mich. / Northville) had an opportunity in the second minute of the match, recording a shot on goal after receiving the ball inside the box.
Detroit's best chance in the first half came off a free kick by Lotito. She fired a shot against the wind from roughly 25 yards out, but the shot deflected off the crossbar on the far side of the goal.
In the second half, Lotito had another chance on a free kick from outside the box, but her shot sailed over the goal. Oakland's best chance in scoring came midway through the first overtime period. The Golden Grizzlies got the ball in front of the net, and took several shots on goal with a mass of players from both sides in the box. Several Oakland shots were blocked and then Detroit successfully defended a corner kick that followed.
Not long thereafter, Riley was hauled down, setting up Lotito's game-winning goal.
Both teams finished with 13 shots in the match. Oakland had six corner kicks, while Detroit had two corner kick opportunities.
Freshman goalkeeper Marina Manzo (Washington Township, Mich. / Romeo) made three saves in net for the shutout. Riley had a team-high four shots for Detroit, while Lotito and Borawski each finished with three shots for the Titans.
Valparaiso 2, Green Bay 0
Sophomore April Cronin (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) scored the only goal the Valparaiso women’s soccer team would need in the 22nd minute, and freshman Vanesa Abad (Barrington, Ill./Lake Zurich [Ohio State]) punched home a rebound in the 73rd minute for an insurance tally as the top-seeded Crusaders downed fourth-seeded Green Bay in the semifinal of the Horizon League Championship Thursday night at Brown Field, 2-0. With the win, Valpo advances to take on second-seeded Detroit in the title game Saturday evening at 7 p.m.
The victory not only advances the Crusaders to the championship match for just the second time since joining the Horizon League, it also set a number of new marks. The win was Valpo’s 13th victory this season, a new single-season program record. It extended the Crusaders’ winning streak to 11 consecutive matches and their unbeaten streak to 17 straight matches, both already program records. The shutout was the team’s 11th clean sheet of the season, matching the program’s single-season mark set in 2012, while redshirt sophomore Sydney Galvez-Daley (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick [Creighton]) set a new individual mark as she has been in goal for all 11 shutouts.
“I thought we handled ourselves tonight very well and I was really pleased with our performance,” said Crusader head coach John Marovich. “I thought some of the ideas we had tonight were really big time – we had some really innovative stuff going on. It was unfortunate we were offside so many times, but you can’t be upset when it comes from ideas that were that good.”
Valpo’s two First Team All-League selections teamed up for the match-winning goal midway through the first half following a long stretch of domination from the Crusaders. Junior Rita Craven (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way North) took the ball in the midfield and sent a long lead pass down the left-hand side. Cronin, who started off a few yards behind the Green Bay back, sprinted past the defender to run onto the ball. It then turned into a superb effort from the sophomore, as Cronin took the ball herself from the sideline all the way across to the top of the box, where she struck it inside the right post, beating Green Bay goalkeeper Nastacia Behle to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead.
The Crusaders limited the Green Bay attack all night long, holding the Phoenix to just four shots over the 90 minutes to keep them off the scoreboard. Valpo would then get a key insurance goal with less than 18 minutes to play off a set piece from a corner kick taken by senior Kaylee Draper (Perrysburg, Ohio/Perrysburg [Bowling Green]). The effort found the head of redshirt sophomore Shelby Oelschlager (Glendale, Ariz./Mountain Ridge), who headed it on goal from eight yards out. The shot was saved by Behle, but Abad was there to clean up the rebound and finish to make it 2-0 Crusaders.
“I thought that tonight, Vanesa Abad had her best game in a Crusader uniform,” said Marovich. “Her energy level was high and she was really creative coming forward. It was appropriate that she scored the goal that she did because I thought she had some really good work, and for her to convert that look was awesome.”
Valpo finished the night with a17-4 shot edge over the Phoenix, placing seven of its attempts on goal. Behle made four saves in the losing effort for Green Bay (11-7-2), while Galvez-Daley stopped three shots, all from distance, to preserve the clean sheet for the Crusaders.
“Certainly when you hold as good an offensive team as Green Bay is to four shots, you feel really good about what you did defensively,” said Marovich. “It starts from the forwards all the way back. Our back five were very good – Sydney handled her responsibilities well and Shelby did a good job in organizing the back four. Then the rest of the backs and our midfielders all had a hand in it – all of them were really smart with their individual defensive assignments, not letting kids turn. We really wanted to win the ball centrally in the middle tonight to limit Green Bay’s opportunities to press our back line, and we did that.”