Sharkey
WCI

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- A year after Wheaton (Ill.) came back to defeat Washington (Mo.) to advance to the national semifinals, Wheaton and Washington met again under the same circumstances. The Thunder defeated the Bears 3-1 to advance to the semis once again.

Wheaton held a 24-18 shot advantage and a 16-7 edge in shots on goal. Washington held a 7-6 advantage in corner kicks. Kelsey Graham made six saves while allowing one goal in 90 minutes of play. Clara Jacques allowed three goals and made 12 saves in goal for the Bears.

Washington took control of the match in the opening minutes and placed pressure on the Thunder backline from the start. However, the Thunder were able to counter and find an early opportunity. Just eight minutes into the match, Sarah Guidera found a loose ball in the box and scored past Jacques for a 1-0 Wheaton lead.

“We really weathered the storm early,” head coach Pete Felske said. “As we expected, [Washington] came out with tremendous energy and intensity and we had to take a lot of pressure in the first 20 minutes before we were able to establish ourselves.”

Play evened as the first half went on, but late in the first half, Wheaton started to build its attack and pressure the backline of the Bears. In the 42nd minute, Annie Hamilton sent a shot to the net's corner that beat Jacques and gave Wheaton a 2-0 lead.

Leah DeMoss had an opportunity to make it a three-goal lead less than a minute later when she was awarded a penalty kick, but couldn’t put it on frame and the 2-0 lead held into halftime.

The Bears were able to break onto the scoreboard in the second hlaf at the 66th minute when Abby Starker found Olivia Lillegraven for a one-timer inside the far post, cutting the lead to 2-1. The goal broke a streak of 12 consecutive shots for the Thunder.

The Bears pushed forward looking for the equalizer, but the Thunder held strong before building an attack. At the 78:55 mark, Sydney Sharkey sent a cross from the right wing to the near post that found the net, giving the Thunder a 3-1 lead.

Wheaton was able to run out the clock and punch its return ticket to San Antonio.

“Our defense really stepped up big for us,” Felske said. “Jen Lee had a tremendous game for us. Alexa Sharkey and Laura Karsten were solid and Amanda Brait did a great job keeping everyone together in the back.”

With the victory, Wheaton advanced to its seventh semifinals in program history.

“It’s a great accomplishment for our girls," Felske said. "With 13 new players we’ve had to endure a lot of heart attacks but this team has played hard and they’ve earned it. It’ll be a great experience for all of our new girls.”

Washington (Mo.) finished its season 19-2-1. Both losses came at the hands of the Thunder.