After a competitive two days of tournament play, the Emory University women’s soccer team’s run in the 2021 NCAA Division III championship came to a close. While the Eagles dominated in their first round match against Wittenberg University (Ohio) 4-0 on Nov. 12, the Centre College Colonels (Ky.) scored a last-second goal in overtime against the Eagles to seal a 2-1 victory on Nov. 13 and send Emory home.
In the round of 64, the Eagles faced off against the Wittenberg Tigers — a team they had yet to play during the regular season, but the unfamiliarity certainly did not spook the Eagles. Within the first 11 minutes of play, the Eagles put themselves up 2-0. Sophomore midfielder Grace Reyer kicked off the action with a tapped-in goal in the fifth minute shortly followed by a goal in the 11th minute by sophomore forward Olivia McBerry who was assisted by Reyer and senior defender Lily Dresner.
The scoring, though, was only just getting started. Just 11 minutes after McBerry’s goal, junior forward Aubrey Blanchard sailed a shot into the back of the net off an assist by junior forward Kylie Hall and senior midfielder Lauren Mahoney.
During the second half, the scoring settled slightly, but not entirely. In the 77th minute, senior forward Molly Miller brought the Eagles’ scoring home by placing a loose ball into the net to seal a 4-0 Eagle victory. Heading into the game, senior goalkeeper Emma Platt felt the team was physically and mentally prepared.
“Going into the tournament, we had been practicing a lot offensively with some of our shooting tactics and some of the different plays we were hoping to accomplish,” Platt said. “Defensively, we had been working very hard with staying disciplined in the back.”
While the first round was smooth sailing for the Eagles, the second round against the Colonels was not as forgiving. Back in September, the Eagles faced off against the Colonels in their third game of the season. The game finished in a tie after double overtime, and a similar theme of back-and-forth persisted into this second faceoff.
In just the first period, both teams combined for 10 fouls, with Emory claiming six of them. After the first six fouls of the first period, Colonels’ junior forward Mills Mullen crossed a ball from the left wing in the 23rd minute to sophomore midfielder Megan Sidaway who headed the ball in, scoring the first goal of the game.
While the Colonels had the edge going into the second half, the Eagles’ momentum picked up. In the 55th minute, McBerry skirted by a Colonel defender and netted in the Eagles’ first goal of the match. With the game tied at 1-1, the stakes were raised. After McBerry’s goal, the Eagles outshot the Colonels 10-4. However, neither team was able to secure a goal before the end of regulation.
During the first overtime period, the Eagles continued to outshoot the Colonels. After two shots from McBerry and one from Hall, the 10-minute overtime was coming to a close. However, in the last 10 seconds, Centre College sophomore forward Bri Tilley found senior forward Taylor Gebhart who shot on goal. Platt deflected the shot, but Mullen put the deflected ball into the back of the net, sealing a 2-1 Colonel victory.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Platt was tremendously proud of the team’s efforts throughout the tournament. While she is graduating soon, Platt is confident in the Eagles’ abilities to continue improving and growing in future seasons.
“I’m really excited to see what the team does over the next few years,” Platt said. “There are a lot of leaders that are graduating after this season but even more are stepping up to fill those roles, so I think our team is set.”
On Nov. 15, the University Athletic Association also selected McBerry and senior defender Lily Dresner for the All-UAA Second Team. Hall, Blanchard and senior midfielder Samantha Hilsee earned All-UAA Honorable Mention as well. Given these accomplishments and after an off-year, head coach Sue Patberg was impressed with the team’s ability to excel against team’s who had played last year throughout the entirety of the season.
“Coming in a year later, [we were] trying to figure out, ‘What are we going to look like?’” Patberg said. “I think there were so many questions, but I was just incredibly proud. To have the year that we did, I’m just super proud of the team and the program.”