By: Alan Brads
The Cedarville women’s soccer team defeated McKendree 3-1 on Thursday night to claim their first NCAA Division II tournament game in school history.
The program qualified for the tournament just twice in the past, losing their opening match on both occasions.
This year on November 10 they wrote themselves into the history books, with two late goals to survive and advance.
Right forward Maya Ryder connected with fellow substitute forward Sophia Browndyke whose shot rattled off the left goalpost and into the back of the net to take a 1-0 first-half lead for Cedarville, but midfielder Lena Higgins scored an equalizer just moments into the second half.
With time winding down in an intense physical matchup, midfielder Mary Kate Wyer took a tumble in the goalkeeper’s box, resulting in an 8th minute penalty kick. Wyer finished the play, firing the penalty kick into the left side of the goal. Her mindset was simple.
“Don’t miss,” Wyer said. “I saw the goalkeeper was shading toward my right so I kicked left.”
Forward Addie Erslan iced the game with 22 seconds left, blasting the ball into the top of the goal off the assist from Wyer.
Both sides fought for all 90 minutes with an intensity revealed by five yellow cards. Despite the two-goal margin on the scoreboard, McKendree looked the part of a tournament-worthy team.
“When you get to the national tournament, you know everyone’s going to be good,” head coach Jonathan Meade said. “But I’m proud of my team for never giving up and staying united.”
These regional tournament games mark yet another historic event for Cedarville, as it is only the second NCAA event to be hosted on campus.
Cedarville will host the regional semifinal, taking on the sixth-seeded Ferris State Bulldogs, who upset Ashland early on November 10, at Yellow Jacket Field after nine rounds of penalty kicks.
Although this could result in a more favorable matchup for Cedarville, the Lady Jackets were hoping for one more shot at redemption against Ashland, who has beaten Cedarville in the conference tournament final each of the last two years.
“I honestly wanted to kick their butt,” Ryder said. “But I’m excited to play Ferris State because we’ve never played them before.”
The team’s enthusiasm for making school history came as no surprise, their vivacity for postgame Olive Garden was a bit more perplexing.
“To us, this win means we get happy pasta,” Ryder said. Cheers and shouts of “Happy pasta” erupted from her teammates. A look of confusion drew further explanation. “We knew we got Olive Garden after the game, if we won it would be happy pasta, if we lost it would be sad pasta.”
With their minds set on school history, and bodies full of happy pasta carbohydrates, the Lady Jackets should be a force to be reckoned with in Saturday’s 3 p.m. game vs. Ferris State.
Alan Brads is a sophomore journalism student and frequent contributor for Cedars. He enjoys playing the drums and speaking Spanish, and watches Buckeye football like his life depends on it.
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