By Alex Neupert, Sports Editor
After facing Bellarmine University earlier in the season to a 2-2 tie, the University of Missouri—St. Louis women’s soccer team knew they had the ability to challenge the number 13 nationally ranked (Division II) Knights. Going into the semifinal round of the Great Valley Lakes Conference (GLVC) postseason tournament, top-seeded Bellarmine was a clear favorite over UMSL with a record of 16-1-2 to the Tritons’ 11-3-4. The women, however, outshot Bellarmine 13-11 in their previous meeting and scored both goals in the first half of that contest. This showed that coming out of the gates strong was key in keeping the Knights off balance.
UMSL continued this strategy, firing on all cylinders November 6 when they traveled to Louisville, Kentucky to take on Bellarmine for the second time with the winner earning the right to play in the GLVC Championship. Less than five minutes into the matchup, McKayla Harder, freshman, psychology, took a well-placed cross from teammate Jaylon Griffith, senior, business marketing, and found the back of the net with an excellent header for the lead.
Bellarmine was quick to respond, netting their own goal off the foot of Darcy Egan into the right corner past UMSL goalkeeper Megan Ohm, senior, psychology. Later in the half, Ohm, who sports an .825 save percentage on the year, redeemed herself with a diving stop to keep GLVC offensive player of the year Mary Beth Gorham from a scoring opportunity. The teams went into halftime with the score tied 1-1.
After the break, the Tritons and Knights battled it out once more. UMSL appeared the more aggressive team, taking nine shots in the second half to Bellarmine’s four. Additionally, UMSL led the night in terms of accuracy, firing seven of their 14 total shots on goal, challenging the abilities of the Knight’s goalkeeper. Whatever the reason, perhaps from fatigue or a situational decision, Bellarmine decided to replace their starting goalie in the 70th minute.
That seemed to be all the change the Tritons needed to turn it up a notch. Less than a minute after the switch, UMSL capitalized upon the circumstances. Seeing an opening, midfielder Cassie McFadden, senior, nursing, fired with her left foot from 40 yards out, the ball just passing over the head of Bellarmine’s fresh goalkeeper. With just her second goal of the season, McFadden helped secure the lead for the Tritons with just 20 minutes left.
The goal proved to be the game winner as UMSL would hold onto the one-goal advantage for the remainder of the half to win 2-1 and secure their place in the championship game. This will be their fifth trip to the finals.
The Tritons faced Truman State, who knocked off powerhouse Quincy in penalty kicks, on November 8 for the GLVC title. The Bulldogs won their previous matchup in UMSL’s home opener on September 13 despite the Tritons outshooting them 16-6.
Truman State put up a goal late in the first half of the championship match and added another early in the second half. The two goals were more than enough for the win over UMSL. The Bulldogs were simply more effective with the ball as UMSL once again outshot Truman 14-4 but failed to capitalize on the tries.