The Lions women's soccer team defeated by Illinois Wesleyan in NCAA Tournament first round

The Lions women's soccer team defeated by Illinois Wesleyan in NCAA Tournament first round

St. Louis, MO – The Lions traveled to St. Louis, MO to participate in the first rounds of the NCAA Tournament. In their first match the Lions matched up against the Titans of Illinois Wesleyan on the campus of Washington University. The Titans quickly stunned the Lions with two goals in the early minutes of the match but the Lions bounced back in the second half. Illinois Wesleyan would find the goal once again in the third quarter but the Lions would go on to score three straight goals to tie the score at three. With only four minutes remaining Illinois Wesleyan was able to score again and won the match 4-3.

The Lions found themselves in the NCAA Tournament after defeating the Hanover College Panthers 3-0 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference after finishing the season 16-2-3. Illinois Wesleyan defeated Wheaton College 5-4 in overtime penalty kicks to win the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin and finished (13-4-2).

Illinois Wesleyan played aggressive to start the match and kept the Lions on their heels. The Titans stunned the Lions with a quick goal off of a cross in the 9th minute to take a 1-0 lead. The Titans found the goal again in the 10th minute on a long shot that dropped in back of the net to take a 2-0 lead. As the half progressed the Lions continued to improve their play and take more shots. Going into the half the Lions took seven shots compared the Titans eight but trailed 2-0.

The Lions came back after the break with more energy and intensity. The Mount battled with the Titans to keep possession but neither team was able to make a solid play at the goal. The Titans would find the goal yet again in the 55th minute to bring their lead to 3-0. The Lions pick up their play and caught fire late in the second half. Madeline Rechel (Harrison, Ohio / Harrison) started the run for the Lions in the 69th minute, finding the back of the net on a 25 yard bomb from a Kaylan Gruber (Harrison, OH / Harrison) assist. Gruber was up next, scoring a goal in the 81st on a free kick outside of the box to bring the deficit to one. The Lions quickly gained possession and earned a corner kick, where Alley Schidmt (Aurora, IN / Lawrenceburg) would head in a goal in the 83rd minute to tie the match at three. Jodie Weimer (Cleves, OH / Taylor) was credited for the assist. With four minutes remaining in the match the Titans were able to stun the Lions with a goal off of a rebounded save from goalie Megan Gilpin (Fort Wayne, IN / Bishop Luers). The Lions fought in the final minutes to create opportunities but weren't able to find the goal, falling to Illinois Wesleyan 4-3.

Head coach Josh Hess had this to say about the match against Illinois Wesleyan and his NCAA Tournament experience, "It was an exciting season and it finished for us with a really exciting game. I thought we showed a lot of grit and determination by not folding even when we were down 3-0. Overall I felt that we handled the moment well and we were as prepared as we could have been for the game. Illinois Wesleyan was a really good opponent and it was the type of contest where both teams were pretty evenly matched. I thought that we showed our best traits on the field and that we had number of players step up and contribute on a cold, tough night. The best part was seeing our players realize that they belonged and that we didn't need to be nervous or timid.

We were treated so well by everyone from the game day staff, to the people of Wash U, to the people working at our hotel. It was a great experience that hopefully our players will want more and more of!

At the end of the day our players can hold their heads high and they proved that they can play at this level. The last few weeks has been incredible with the support of our entire university, even Dr. Williams and Mrs. Williams made the trip out to support us on a freezing cold night! Hopefully we will have the tenacity and motivation to get ourselves back there!"

The Lions had a very successful season, winning their seventh conference championship and the first since 2008. The Lions will look to continue their success in the upcoming season with many key piece returning. Check MSJSports.com for more updates on the Lions upcoming season!