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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Women’s Soccer falls in final heartbreaker to Cobbers

< an impressive 7-0-0 conference record in the month of October, including a 3-0 victory against cross-town rival St. Olaf, Carleton’s Womens Soccer headed into the MIAC playoffs as division co-champs and the number 2 seed in the bracket. Unfortunately, that momentum came to an abrupt halt when the Knights matched up against their long-time foe in Concordia College, a match in which Carleton found itself on the short end of a 1-0 result.

The Knights and the Cobbers have a history of hard-fought battles, with postseason faceoffs in five out of the last six years. Four of those matches came down to penalty kicks. Two years ago it was the Knights who topped Concordia in the semifinals; last year, the Cobbers turned the tables by defeating Carleton in a similar fashion in the finals. After a double-overtime 0-0 draw in their matchup earlier this season, it seemed that the matchup was destined to be a thriller.

Carleton nearly scored early on, when Lily VanderStaay played Zoe Suche ’13 into the box, but Suche’s shot slid just wide of the net. Just a few minutes later, Concordia’s sophomore forward Gina Weiss gave the home crowd a scare when she launched a rocket toward Carleton keeper Beth Ashinsky ’13. Fortunately, Ashinsky made a tremendous save, and Megan Morrison ’13 blocked Conordia’s Sarah Rounds ‘13 from finishing. However, Carleton was unable to hold the ever-dangerous Rounds,  who found found herself alone at the top of the penalty box in the 35th minute. Rounds, the MIAC’s leading scorer, took advantage of the momentary lapse and struck a perfect ball to the left side of the net. Playing to extend the careers of their seniors, Carleton fought valiantly and nearly broke through in the 84th minute, when Tomita’s shot forced a brilliant diving save from Concordia keeper Ali Nelson ’13. The crowd at Bell Field exploded in cheers as it looked like Carleton freshman Ellie Wilson might beat Nelson to the loose ball, but Nelson quickly jumped on her rebound, and the final six minutes ticked by without a goal.

The loss was certainly a disappointment for the Knights. However, the Knights still have a chance to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, and also hold a share of this year’s MIAC title. In addition, this class of seniors certainly have much to be proud of. The current graduating seniors are the last class to have taken part in the Knights’ historic 2008 campaign, in which the Knights made the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. The current class, which consists of Cassie Burke ‘12, Linnea Carlson ‘12, Rachel Foran ‘12, Niki Tomita ‘12, Lily Vanderstaay ‘12, and Abby Wills ‘12, have all made important contributions to the team, and graduate as one of the most decorated classes in the history of the program.

Since her freshman year, Cassie Burke has established herself as a speedy and agile forward, whose quickness and skill always manage to pick up the intensity of the game. Burke finishes the regular season with three goals, for a career total of 18. “The most important thing I will take away from soccer is the friendships I’ve made,” said Burke. “They make soccer fun – they’ve really shaped who I am.”

Captain Linnea Carlson has also provided leadership and strength on a competitive team. Despite struggling with injury for the first half of the season, Carlson has made her mark on the season, both with her endless spirit and diligence on and off the field, culminating in her goal against St. Olaf. “I decided that this was my senior season and my body wasn’t going to get in my way,” said Carlson.

Captain Rachel Foran, a starter throughout all of her four years at Carleton, has established herself as a solid member of Carleton’s back line. An All-MIAC first-team selection her sophomore year, Foran’s composure on the ball, combined with her strength on the field, have made her a staple in the Knights’ defense.

“I think on this team there are a lot of really awesome leaders,” she said. “It’s easy to lead a team of people who are all so supportive. The best part of the team is the people on it.”

Captain Niki Tomita, an agile, dynamic forward, finishes her career as one of the most decorated players in the program. In addition to an honorable mention all-MIAC shoutout her freshman year, Tomita was a first-team all-MIAC selection in both 2009 and 2010, and was named MIAC Player of the Year in 2010. She was also tabbed to the All Region third team. Her finesse on the ball, combined with her incredible ability to take on (and beat) defenders, will be sorely missed.

Vanderstaay has been a starter in the midfield since her freshman year, and has been recognized for her efforts. Tabbed to the Honorable Mention All-MIAC team in 2010, Vanderstaay was third on the team with seven goals in 2010, and currently leads the team with seven goals as well. Her blistering shot and quickness on the ball have frequently left defenders bewildered as she streaks past them.

Wills has also established herself as one of the top midfielders in the conference, and has garnered all-MIAC recognition every year, with one honorable mention and two first-team accolades. Her calm, composed style combined with her ability to win balls in the air has made her essential in the Knights’ midfield lineup since her freshman year. A talented and diligent student as well, Wills was also named a second-team Academic All-American in 2010.

Whether or not the Knights continue their season at the national level, the seniors have much to be proud of. “This team has been my family,” said Vanderstaay. “We’ve cried out of both joy and frustration, gotten our butts kicked by fitness tests, laughed so hard we’ve peed, and played some seriously kick-ass soccer.”

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