ALLENDALE, Mich. — Minnesota State-Mankato waited 75 days for a rematch with Central Missouri, the only team to defeat the Mavericks, and took full advantage earning a shootout victory off the foot of senior Ashley Sykora for the first NCAA Central Region championship in program history.
With the victory, Minnesota State extends its school-record unbeaten streak to 20 consecutive matches.
The Mavericks were able to control much of the possession in the first half as they outshot the Jennies 9-3. Junior Sydney Temple nearly scored the match’s first marker but fired just wide of the right post with eight minutes remaining in the stanza.
UCM netminder Morgan Hartzler made three saves to pace the Jennies defensively.
Sophomore goalkeeper Molly McGough stepped up in the second half just 10 minutes in when she dove to her left for a spectacular save to deny Central Missouri’s Aaryn Burke a sure goal.
Fellow sophomore Emily Moris nearly gave the Mavericks the lead when she fired a laser just wide of the right post from outside the box. However, Moris would capitalize in the 68th minute when she blasted a goal past Hartzler into the right side off a Brianne West assist. That helper marked the 32nd of West’s career tying her for the MSU school record.
Central Missouri responded in the 77th minute when Alexis Robbers headed a Kayla Shain corner kick past McGough to knot the match at a goal a piece.
The Mavericks earned multiple corner kicks in the waning minutes of regulation but Hartzler made a beautiful save punching a Tori Meinhardt shot over the crossbar to force overtime.
In the first overtime period, senior forward Nicole Dooher nearly missed a game-winner halfway through the frame but yet again, Hartzler punched the ball off the crossbar to deny the opportunity. The match remained 1-1 at the end of the second overtime sending the match to a game-deciding shootout.
The shootout was even, 3-3, entering the fourth round when McGough made an amazing save with her right foot to deny UCM’s Samantha Wilkes attempt. After consecutive makes from both teams, the shootout was again tied at 4-4 with senior midfielder Ashley Sykora the lone remaining shooter. She fired a shot towards the right side that grazed Hartzler’s fingertips and tricked into the net clinching the title for MSU.
The Mavericks outshot the Jennies 20-10 in the contest as Hartzler finished with eight saves for UCM and McGough notched seven stops for MSU. Additionally, senior midfielder Cassie Weik has now played more minutes than any player in program history with 6,280 for her career.