Nov. 14, 2010

Courtesy of Fort Lewis

DURANGO, Colo. -- No. 3 Fort Lewis (17-2-2) advanced to the third round of the NCAA Division II women's soccer championships thanks to a 4-2 advantage over Metro State (12-5-4) in a penalty kick shootout today at Dirks Field. The shootout round followed a 0-0 battle through 90 minutes of regulation play and two 10-minute overtime periods.

The game is officially recorded as a 0-0 draw in the record books, with the Skyhawks advancing on penalties. Fort Lewis will face No. 14 Winona State (Minn.) (17-3-2) in the third round of the NCAA playoffs on Friday, Nov. 19 in Allendale, Mich. Winona State, host of the other half of the NCAA Division II Central Regionals, ousted No. 20 Regis today in a penalty kick shootout following a 1-1 draw through two overtimes.

"Once again, we left it to senior leadership," said fourth-year head coach Damian Clarke, referring to his senior goalkeeper, Christine Schmelzle, in particular. "Cricket (Schmelzle's nickname) came out and performed. The rest of the kids were calm, cool and collected."

The penalty kick shootout saw the Skyhawks go first. Hayley Hollenga buried a shot inside the right post to put FLC ahead 1-0, but was matched by MSCD's Caitlin Oliver, who scored on a nearly identical shot. Sara Egbom followed suit for Fort Lewis, tucking a shot low inside the right post to give FLC a 2-1 lead. On Metro State's turn, Ashley Nemmers was stopped by Schmelzle preserving the 2-1 lead through two shooters per side. Emma Cannis had a chance to give the Skyhawks a commanding lead, but Metro State's Sarah Tanous dove to her right and rejected Cannis' attempt.

With new life, the Roadrunners looked to knot the score at 2-2, but Michael' Ann Karas clanked a drive off the crossbar. To start the fourth round, FLC's Jane Barden drilled a shot off the V where the right post and crossbar intersect. The ball bounced just behind the goal line to give FLC a 3-1 advantage. Aubrey Fondy answered for Metro State to trim the lead to 3-2.

As FLC's final shooter, Megan Striedel had the opportunity to end the shootout right there and then. She did, scoring inside the right post on a mid-level shot that found the back of the net.

The Fort Lewis success in penalty kicks made amends for missed opportunities through regulation. The Skyhawks outshot the Roadrunners 22-10 overall and 10-4 in shots on frame.

But the shot differential was deceptive. Metro State controlled the first half, outshooting FLC 7-3 overall and 3-2 in shots on goal. Strong winds from the southwest dictated play throughout the game, as the team with the wind at their backs clearly had an advantage. In the first half, the Roadrunners were Mother Nature's beneficiaries.

"To be honest, we had a hard time getting over our nerves in the first half," Clarke countered. "We asked them to just combine and find an easy pass and get comfortable. Once we started to combine a little bit, I think our confidence grew and we played quite well from that point forward."

Despite playing into the wind, the best scoring chance for either team in the first half came after a late Fort Lewis substitution. Torrey Larson spelled Cannis in the 33rd minute and less than six minutes later, nearly gave FLC a 1-0 lead when she collected a through-ball, made one touch to her left, and drilled a shot at the target from 10 yards out. Tanous made what may have been the save of the match by diving to her right and snuffing the scoring chance.

With the wind in their favor in the second half, the Skyhawks peppered Tanous, who made eight saves in the second 45 minutes. But it was the chances that eluded the Metro State goalkeeper and missed by mere feet that had the Dirks Field faithful groaning. Cannis' header off a crossing pass skipped just wide of the left post in the 83rd minute. Hollenga lifted a shot just over the crossbar from inside the six in the 88th minute. She did the same thing minutes into the first overtime.

As temperatures dipped into the 30s and the sun sank to the west on the cloudy and breezy day, both teams lined the field for the shootout round. For the Roadrunners, it marked the second time in as many NCAA playoff games at Dirks Field that they watched their fate unfold in a shootout, having surpassed Colorado Mines 5-4 in penalty kicks on Friday after playing to a 1-1 draw.

For the Skyhawks, it meant a chance to get past their opening game for the first time ever.

"It's history," Clarke said of the tie-turned-triumph. "It takes us one more step to becoming an NCAA-quality program."

Fort Lewis and Winona State will square off Friday in Allendale, Mich., home to No. 5 Grand Valley State University, the top seed in the Midwest Region.