Crusaders Make History in Advancing to Round of 16

Crusaders Make History in Advancing to Round of 16


MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin - The Capital University women's soccer team advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in the program's history on Sunday night, defeating unbeaten and No. 16 nationally ranked University of Wisconsin Whitewater, 1-0.

Originally, the Warhawks were set to host the Crusaders on day two of the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, but following severe weather conditions that swept across the Midwest, the game was forced to move north away from the torrential rain and storms.

Both teams traveled just over an hour to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee to fit the game in on Sunday night, pushing the originally scheduled game time back two and a half hours to 7:30 p.m.

"We honestly came out with the same game plan that we had against Chicago on Saturday," said head coach Chris Kouns. "Our team played scrappy and really stymied Whitewater's attack."

In the first half of play, both Capital and Wisconsin Whitewater struggled to get much going offensively, as nearly every ball driven in the air was caught up in the gusty winds.

However in the 43rd minute, sophomore Mariah Richards, who scored the game winning goal in round one on Saturdaynight, found a ball from sophomore Maura Fortino and tapped it into the back of the net for the score.

"Once again, another set piece, something we have been working on," Kouns said. "For the second game in a row, Mariah (Richards) came up with the game winning goal for us."

Perhaps the best opportunity for the Warhawks came midway through the opening frame, as they had three shots on the ground within five feet of the net, to which senior goalkeeper Maggie Donnellan denied each one.

"We didn't have a great first half," Kouns said. "But players such as Maura (Fortino), Mariah (Richards), and Jamie (Murray) helped us stick to our game I'm the opening half."

Richards' goal proved the be highlight of the first half for the Crusaders, as they took a 1-0 lead into halftime.

"Scoring a goal in the first half and having the lead helps you heading into the next half, too," Kouns said. "Then you know that you have a little momentum as a team."

As the second half of play progressed, both teams battled for position and ball control, as the Warhawks were trying to even the score, whereas the Crusaders were trying to pad their lead with another goal.

Neither team could manufacture a clean look on breakaway passing, as once again Capital's back line displayed superb defending throughout the match.

With under 15 minutes left in the game, the sense of urgency was apparent for the Warhawks, as their 21 game unbeaten streak was beginning to topple for the first time this season.

Then as the game clock winded down to zero, the Crusaders stormed the field in elation after advancing, 1-0, and recording the program's best win total (18), trumping the previous record (17) set back in 1998.

Leading the way for the Crusaders was Richards, netting her third goal of the season and second in as many NCAA Tournament games.

Donnellan recorded her fifth consecutive shutout, improving her record in goal to 18-4-1 on the year, while stopping all six shots on goal that she faced.

Fortino also tallied her third assist on the lone goal of the match.

"I'm just so proud and excited for this group," Kouns said. "I could go on and on about each player tonight, because they all played that well. We have an opportunity to once again go one step further."

With the win, Capital (18-4-1) moves on to face a familiar opponent from earlier in the season in No. 14 nationally ranked Thomas More (Ky.), playing in the round of 16 hosted by Washington University (Mo.).

Capital handed Thomas More (17-1-2) its lone loss of the season on Sept. 11 at the Saints' home field, winning 2-1 in double overtime.

At the time, the Saints were ranked No. 14 in the nation.

"We're certainly familiar with Thomas More," Kouns said. "We know that we can match up and compete with them. But, at the NCAA Tournament level it's going to be a different level of competition, so we are excited for the challenge."

Official date and time for the round of 16 match has yet to be released by the NCAA, so be sure to stay up-to-date on for the latest information.