The Emory University women’s soccer team advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2022 NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship after beating the Piedmont University (Ga.) Lions 7-0 on Nov. 12 and the Centre College (Ky.) Colonels 4-3 on Nov. 13. The Eagles hosted the first and second rounds in front of the Emory community at the Woodruff Physical Education Center (WoodPEC).

The Eagles dominated their first-round matchup against the Lions. Junior midfielder Mia Han’s hat trick established a comfortable early lead within the first 20 minutes, and senior forward Kylie Hall scored a fourth goal before halftime. In the second half, the Eagles kept up the high intensity as senior defender and midfielder LJ Kolodge scored seconds after the kick-off. Sophomore midfielder Chayse Corfman notched a pair of late goals that contributed to Emory’s record-breaking performance for most goals scored in an NCAA Tournament game.

Junior midfielder Grace Reyer takes a shot during the team’s second-round matchup against Centre College (Ky.) on Nov. 13. (Natalie Sandlow/Staff)

After the big win against Piedmont, the team faced Centre in the second round exactly one year after the Colonels knocked Emory out of the 2021 Tournament. Senior defender Brooke Tylka said the team went into the game against Centre with a “revenge mentality.”

“Last year, it was definitely heartbreaking in the way we lost in overtime,” Tylka said. “We were playing for our seniors last year who ended their career losing to Centre.”

Centre senior forward Mills Mullen gave the Colonels the lead in the 18th minute, but the Eagles fought back. Graduate midfielder Mara Rodriguez headed the ball out of reach of Centre senior goalie Jonelle Barron in the 24th minute and into the back of the net, and Tylka’s powerful shot put the Eagles in front before halftime. 

The Colonels proved to be a strong defensive test for the Eagles. Barron made several stops against Hall in the second half to prevent her from scoring the team’s elusive third goal. Despite the Eagles looking as though they had the momentum, Mullen tied the game at 2-2, slotting the ball just out of reach of senior goalie Emma Miller in the 62nd minute. 

Centre had a late chance to win the game in regulation time when a forward shot the ball past Miller, but Tylka slid on the Eagles’ goal line to divert the ball just wide. 

Tylka said that in the moment, she was not aware that she saved a goal with her “instinctual” last-minute play, but she was glad to contribute to the game both offensively and defensively.

“Scoring a goal in the NCAA Tournament has always been a goal of mine,” Tylka said. “I wasn’t able to play in the NCAA Tournament last year due to injury so it was really a full circle moment. It was surreal.”

Tylka praised the team’s positive attitude heading into overtime.

“A lot of teams going into overtime could see that as kind of a disappointment,” Tylka said. “We really were just full steam ahead.”

The Eagles searched for the winning goal but were once again unable to convert. Centre freshman midfielder Alexis Kronenthal scored with just three minutes remaining in the first overtime period, giving the Eagles little time to keep their tournament run alive. Tylka said the team’s “togetherness” was key to staying in the game.

“We really excelled in our resiliency,” Tylka said. “That’s something we’ve been working on the whole season, not hanging our heads when we get down a goal, but instead using that as momentum.”

Just two minutes into the final overtime period, Han turned inside the box and drilled a shot into the corner of the goal to tie the game at 3-3. The Colonels were unable to answer before time expired, forcing the game to be decided in a penalty shoot-out.

Kolodge, Corfman and Hall scored the team’s first three penalty kicks, giving the Eagles a 3-2 lead in the best-of-five shoot-out. The game took another dramatic turn when Tylka’s penalty kick hit the post, but freshman goalie Sophia Garcia saved Centre sophomore defender Lindsey Carr’s penalty kick seconds later to keep the Eagles ahead. Graduate forward Haley Barge then stepped up to attempt the game-winning goal, and the crowd erupted when she nestled her shot in the upper left corner and secured the 4-3 win. 

The team celebrated the victory, which Tylka called “an emotional roller coaster” of a game, by running across the field and piling on top of Barge and Garcia.

“To [win on] penalty kicks was definitely a feeling I will never forget, especially on our home field,” Tylka said. “It really doesn’t get better than that.”

The Eagles will play Messiah University (Pa.) in Pittsburgh at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 for the chance to advance to the Elite Eight.