The 12th ranked Slippery Rock women’s soccer team earned its third consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen with a 2-1 overtime win against the 24th ranked Shippensburg Raiders on Sunday.
The second round game of the NCAA Division II playoffs was played under dismal conditions with the temperature below-fifty degrees, heavy wind and consistent rainfall.
Slippery Rock persevered through the inclement conditions to give themselves an early lead.
Following a foul in the 21st minute, senior Lauren Impey delivered a free kick past the Raiders senior goalkeeper Shelbie Rackley to put the Rock up 1-0.
“As soon as we got the free kick, one of my teammates came up to me and thought we should do a different type of free kick,” Impey said. “I said no, I am going for it.”
Slippery Rock held the Raiders to no shots in the first half.
The Raiders first shot of the game came during the second half.
A shot that would have been harmless on a dry day proved to be disastrous.
Shippensburg freshman Stephanie Allshouse powered a long range shot in the 62nd minute towards SRU goalkeeper Dana O’Neill.
O’Neill underestimated slippery state of the rapidly moving ball and could only watch as it slipped out of her hands. Shippensburg junior Kate Zech buried the ball in the back of the open net, tying the game 1-1.
The game would remain scoreless for the rest of regulation play and be decided in overtime.
Less than two weeks prior to this contest, the Rock faced off against the Raiders and saw the game end in a 1-1 tie to end each team’s regular season.
Tying isn’t an option in the NCAA Playoffs.
After nine minutes of overtime play, SRU was awarded with a free kick several yards outside of the goal box. Impey was called upon again to deliver another perfect kick.
She did not disappoint.
With the wind against her and the box crowded full with players from either squad, Impey sent the ball floating towards the far post.
Freshman Sam Thornton was in perfect position and scored the game-winning goal to send SRU to the NCAA sweet 16. The goal was Thornton’s first of the season.
“We were down a few players going into this game in particular so we had to change things up a little bit upfront,” head coach Noreen Herlihy said. “Nicole Krueger and Sam Thornton did an absolutely phenomenal job for us upfront. They truly played their socks off for us.”
Impey finished the game with the initial goal of the contest and the assist on the go-ahead, game-winning goal.
“Impey brings that veteran experience so to speak. She reads the game very well,” Herlihy said. “She is passionate about the game and loves to play. Her and Izabel Scott do a very good job of supporting the freshman starters at the back.”
The women’s squad travels to the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y. Friday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. to face PSAC-West rival California University of Pa. for the Atlantic Region title.
“My expectations for Friday are just like any other game and that is to get a win,” Impey said. “Cal-U, in all fairness to them, is on an unbelievable 19-game winning streak and we are the only team that has beat them this year. We can most definitely do it again.”
Cal-U defeated the Kutztown Golden Bears 6-1 in the second round.
“There is no surprise that Cal-U is the number one in the region since they have gone on this amazing run,” Herlihy said. “We beat them the last three times we have played them. It’s going to be a great game. We are going in prepared and full of confidence. They aren’t going to be looking forward to playing us, they know we aren’t going to be any pushovers.”
The winner of Friday’s regional match will play in Sunday’s NCAA quarterfinal game against the winner of the East region duel between first seed St. Rose College and second seed American International College.
In Slippery Rock’s past two trips to the NCAA tournament they have been unable to advance past the third round, falling to Cal-U in 2011 and West Chester University in 2012.
The winner of Sunday’s quarterfinal game will earn a trip to Evans, GA and compete in the NCAA Division II Final Four.