It’s been quite a week for the Carleton women’s soccer team, as the Knights wrapped up their MIAC schedule with the team’s first regular season championship since 1982 before defeating St. Benedict in Wednesday’s playoff semifinal. Tomorrow, Carleton will look to defend its MIAC playoff title and earn an NCAA Tournament bid when it hosts Concordia College in the conference final at 2 p.m.
Before the playoffs arrived, the team put on an amazing showing last Thursday night against the Wildcats of St. Catherine even after their game was rescheduled to the dome at Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault. Since it was still technically Carleton’s final home game of regular season, the Knights honored their stellar seniors – Liz Arakaki, Leigh-Anne Borkowski, Megan Milligan, Merritt Swain, and Kate Trenerry – for their exemplary representation and invaluable development of the program.
The Knights quickly adapted to the new atmosphere of the pressurized dome, scoring their first goal within two minutes. Arakaki received a slotted ball from central midfielder Abby Wills ’12 and dribbled to the end line where she lofted a cross back into the box. Marlena Hartman-Filson ’13 battled for it in the air and after a brief scuffle, found herself in behind her defender with the ball at her feet. The “Dutch Dream” took no further hesitation before smashing home her tenth goal of the season.
Like a chameleon, the Knights mimicked their surroundings and continued to apply pressure on the Wildcat backline. Carleton struck again when Lily VanderStaay ’12 attacked down the left side and served a cross in stride to Arakaki. Effortlessly, the senior midfielder brought the ball down inside the six-yard box and placed it near post.
The Knights had a minor lapse early in the second half, when the Wildcats capitalized on a turnover and brought the score to 2-1. But instead of letting the opposition ride the momentum, Borkowski took control. Embracing her inner “Leigh-Animal”, the senior defender shredded through the St. Catherine ranks and fired in a shot past the keeper to go up 3-1.
The game finished with a pair of goals from Cassie Burke ’12, both set up by Arakaki, who completed a hat trick of assists. Burke was able to beat her defender to the spot and volley a cross out of the air for goal number four; four minutes later, she chased down Arakaki’s ball over the top and chipped the keeper for the fifth.
Two days later, the Knights summoned high intensity for Northfield rival St. Olaf with a day of focused mental preparation in the form of the traditional “Ole Run.” Come game time, both teams came out of the gates strong, challenging in the air and getting stuck in for tackles.
The Knights struck first with five minutes to go in the first half. Arakaki received the ball at the Ole 18-yard box and immediately found the seam between the opposing center backs. Despite the Ole backline attempting to step and pull Carleton forwards offside, Linnea Carlson ’12 timed her run perfectly and crossed the offside plane just as Arakaki released the ball. With no defenders tracking Carlson’s run, the junior forward finished it first time past the exposed goalie.
Two minutes later, Trenerry made a huge save to maintain the lead when St. Olaf created a one-on-one opportunity of their own. As the last player standing to prevent the equalizing goal, the senior keeper defied gravity and leapt through the air, getting a hand to the ball and deflecting a momentum-killing score. This fantastic save undoubtedly warranted a “Polar Bear Express, Woot! Woot!” from the bench; it was promptly delivered.
But as the result of this game determined playoff seeding, one goal up was not enough for the Knights. Fifteen minutes into the second half, Sarah Ferrari ’13 received the ball down the right side line. Showing off her technical flair, the sophomore winger froze her defender with quick zig-zag touches then accelerated to the inside. She wound up and fired a shot into the mix whereupon the ball deflected off an Ole limb and into the netting for her first goal of the season.
The Knights’ backline, including Milligan, Borkowski, Rachel Foran ’12, Megan Morrison ’13, and Layne Teska ’14, successfully protected the goal for the remainder of the match, despite St. Olaf’s best attempts. The 2-0 win secured Carleton’s top seed in the MIAC playoffs, a feat not achieved by a Carleton women’s soccer squad in 28 years.
There was much excitement within the team as the Knights were to host their first round playoff game against the St. Benedict Blazers on Wednesday. At their last face off, the two teams competed into double overtime, so this match was bound to be intense.
The first goal of the game did not come until 15 minutes into the second half. Niki Tomita ’12 settled a pass with her back to goal but then turned on her defender. Spotting a blonde beacon streaking down the left side, Tomita played a diagonal through ball to none other than Hartman-Filson. The sophomore forward beat her man to the ball and as the defender slid in for the tackle, she released a left footed bullet over the keeper into the far-post side netting.
Unfortunately, celebrations were short-lived as the Blazers quickly answered and evened up the score. Despite some close calls, regulation ended 1-1 and the game proceeded to overtime.
The Knights responded with power in the “sudden death” overtime, out-shooting the Blazers 6-1. With just ten seconds remaining the period, Hartman-Filson battled her defender on the sideline and sent a cross into the mob crowding the Blazers’ penalty area. There was a mad scramble in the box as players desperately challenged for the ball. It hit the keeper, the post, and everything in between as it became stuck in a “shove-o-war” directly on the goal line. The game clock was nearly to zero and, as a Blazer defender had fallen on the ball, Tomita and Arakaki essentially pushed against the ball until both it and the player crossed over the line. The horn sounded just as the referee signaled that the goal was good, and the Knights and their fans erupted with cheers.
With the dramatic first round behind them, Carleton will host the second seed, Concordia, tomorrow for the conference finals. The Knights have been unbeaten since September 7 (the first day of New Student Week), when they fell to the same Concordia squad in overtime. The streak has garnered national attention, as Carleton has risen to No. 16 in the latest rankings. So, bring $3 and come watch this epic showdown for the MIAC championship and a coveted spot in the NCAA tournament
-Erin Wilson is a member of the women’s soccer team.