HANOVER, Indiana – The Mount St. Joseph University soccer team took to the field on Saturday, to play for the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship. The Lions squared off with the no. 14 team in the country the Hanover Panthers, on their home field. The Panthers earned the right to host the match when they defeated The Mount on October 24, in a double-overtime thriller. Each team dispatched their semi-final opponent with ease, the Lions a 3-0 win over Transylvania and Hanover were 2-0 winners over Anderson.
For the second time in as many seasons the Lions found themselves on someone else's home field, looking to claim the HCAC crown and the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament. It had been seven years since The Mount has had the honor to represent the HCAC on a national stage. Last season they fell to Franklin 2-1 in a hard fought match, this season would be different for the women of the MSJ soccer team though.
After playing an outstanding game against Hanover a little more than a week ago, and although they lost they came into this game with the confidence they could take down the No. 14 Panthers. The pitch was wet and sloppy for the game but the Lions were ready to overcome any obstacle put in front of them on this day. They came out with intensity and confidence to start the championship match. The Lions were able to get on the board first as Stefanie Autenrieb (Cincinnati, Ohio / Seton) drilled a left footed bomb from outside the 18 yard box which found the back of the net. Jodie Weimer (Cleves, OH / Taylor) was credited with the helper on the goal. The Lions continued to keep the pressure on the Panthers, taking 10 shot attempts in the first half compared to four shots from the Panthers. The Lions held on to a 1-goal lead as the teams entered the half-time break.
Coming out of the half with the slimmest of margins, the Lions knew the game could swing on any given play. They continued to work extremely hard to ensure that the decisive play came up in their favor. They quickly doubled the lead as Kaylan Gruber (Harrison, Ohio/Harrison) who had twice been turned away on fantastic saves by the Hanover keeper, ripped a shot from outside the 18-yard box that put the Lions ahead 2-0.
The game began to turn after Gruber's goal, as Hanover saw their 16-game winning streak slipping through their fingers. But as has been the case for much of the season the Lions were able to dominate in midfield throughout . Joining Autenrieb and Weimer in the middle were Madeline Rechel (Harrison, Ohio / Harrison) Paige Mersmann (Florence, KY / Boone County) who continured to challenge every ball to help their backline.
The back three of Taylor Murphy (Batavia, Ohio/Batavia), Alex Hines (Cincinnati, Ohio/Walnut Hills) and Emily Reichling (Cincinnati, Ohio/Oak Hills) helped the team secure their 10th clean sheet of the season and kept pressure off of freshmen goal keeper Megan Gilpin (Ft. Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers). When she was challenged Gilpin was up to the task with 7 saves.
The Lions got their final goal of the game from freshman Etelle Nfor (Frankfort, Ky / Western Hills) in the 81st minute, all but securing the win for the Lions; Rechel was credited with the assist. The team also got contributions from Madeline Scherpenberg (Cincinnati, Ohio/Mercy) and Hannah Schloemer (Lawerenceburg, Ind./East Central). Catherine Hatfield (Batavia,Ohio/Batavia) and Haylie Brown (Sunman, Ind./East Central) along with Nfor provided the Lions with a lift off the bench.
When asked about his teams performance in the tournament Mount St. Joseph head coach Josh Hess had this to say:
The win qualifies The Mount for the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament, they will have to wait until Monday Nov. 5th at 1:30 PM to find out where they will be traveling and who they will be playing.