Run continues for surprising Capital
OAC champs defeat Alma in NCAA tournament opener
WHEATON, Ill. -- Playing for the first time as the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament champions, Capital played championship-caliber soccer in their 1-0 victory against Alma in their first-round match of the NCAA tournament.
Like they have throughout their 12-2-2 record over their past 16 matches, the Crusaders (13-7-2) took an early lead and played top-flight defense to maintain their advantage. Capital played to the script again on Friday night, with senior Kaylee Phillips finding classmate Natalie Fiorelli 10 yards from Alma’s net in the 20th minute. Fiorelli headed Phillips’ past Alma’a Morgan Waier for her ninth goal of the season, while Phillips recorded her eighth assist of the campaign.
Sophomore keeper Maggie Donnellan and the Crusader defense fended off 14 Scots shots that included eight shots on goal. The shutout was Donnellan’s eighth of the season, her first since blanking Otterbein in the OAC semifinals.
The Crusaders made history on Friday by winning the first NCAA tournament game in program history.
“Defense is what wins in NCAA tournaments, and we played very good defense tonight,” Coach Chris Kouns said. “We controlled the ball very well in the first half, and were able to get a goal and a lead. Our priority was to save the win in the second half, and the important thing was that we maintained our lead.
“This is a very special win, and I’m proud of this team because of how hard they have worked to get there. This is a great moment for this group.”
It was certainly a team effort for the Crusaders, who used seven substitutions in the last 15 minutes. Capital’s immense depth played massive dividends, as the Crusader defense turned back five shots and one corner kick by the Scots (18-4-1) in the last nine minutes.
“Championship teams are deep, and we knew all year that we weren’t going to be a team that relies on 12 or 13 players. The girls were warriors tonight, and we took their best shots and held tough,” Kouns said. “Maggie also made two big saves near the end of the match and came up big tonight. Every single girl who played or was on the bench made a big impact tonight.”
The Crusaders are currently one of the hottest teams in the nation, having won their last eight matches while posting a 9-0-1 record in their past 10 matches. Capital has outscored their opponents 28-7 during that span that includes six shutouts and eight games that the Crusader offense has scored at least two goals.
Capital only needed one goal on Friday, and will now face host Wheaton at 1 p.m. ET Saturday in the second round. In their first round match, Wheaton (18-1-2) defeated Penn State-Behrend 5-0.
“(Wheaton) is an excellent team with a pedigree of championships. We’re aspiring to play those kinds of teams and trying to show that we can play at that level. For us, this is a wonderful challenge, and we’re excited for the opportunity,” Kouns said.
Capital will face Wheaton tomorrow with the overwhelming support of the Crusader community.
“The girls have received numerous amount of text messages from people all across campus supporting and cheering us on,” Kouns said. “The girls are aware of the great things that they’re doing, and they’re enjoying the moment while staying focused on the present.”