Women's Soccer to Face Thomas More in NCAA Round of 16

The Crusaders earned their first round of 16 appearance after defeating the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, 1-0, this past Sunday night. (Jeremy Morgan photo)
The Crusaders earned their first round of 16 appearance after defeating the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, 1-0, this past Sunday night. (Jeremy Morgan photo)

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With history having already been made this past weekend, the Capital University women's soccer team looks to take another historical step in program history, as they travel to St. Louis, Mo., this weekend to face Thomas More (Ky.) in the round of 16 of the NCAA Division III Tournament.

The round of 16 match will take place this Saturday, Nov. 23, at 1:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. Eastern). No. 1 nationally ranked Washington University (Mo.) will be the host site the for the third round and quarterfinals matches. 

Capital (18-4-1) comes into Saturday's match on an eight game win streak, having recorded a new single-season team record in wins in a 1-0 victory over the University of Wisconsin Whitewater in the round of 32 this past Sunday night.

In addition, the Crusaders made program history in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, having advanced to the round of 16, a step the program had never gotten to up until Sunday.

As for their opponent, Thomas More (19-1-2), comes into the game on an 18-match unbeaten streak, having suffered its only loss of the season on Sept. 11 at home in a 2-1 double overtime defeat to Capital.

Since that setback, the Saints have won 16 of their last 18 games en route to a No. 14 national ranking.

The Crusaders, who earned back-to-back 1-0 victories in the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, enter the round of 16 having shutout their opponent in five straight matches, winning by a combined 8-0 margin.

In the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, the Crusaders traveled to Whitewater, Wis., to take on the University of Chicago in an evening affair at host Whitewater.

Late game heroics were awarded to sophomore Mariah Richards, who tapped in a corner kick by freshman Claire Quinn in the 102nd minute.

The score was no ordinary one though, as Quinn's textbook corner kick was driven down in a scrum of Crusaders in the box, where Richards came up with and snuck the ball into the net just outside the goal line in the box.

In total, Chicago outshot Capital 22-7, but the Crusaders came up with the all-important shot for goal.

Then in the round of 32, the Crusaders defeated 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 northeast, away from the torrential rain and storms.

In the 43rd minute, Richards, who scored the game winning goal in round one on Saturday night, found a ball from senior Michelle Geiger and tapped it into the back of the net for the score.

As the second half progressed and the clock winded down to zero, the Crusaders stormed the field in elation after advancing and recording the program's best win total, trumping the previous record (17) set back in 1998.

Leading the way this season for Capital has been a pair of seniors in goalkeeper Maggie Donnellan (Cincinnati, Ohio) and forward Hilary Ells (Grandview Heights, Ohio).

Donnellan, who earned her third consecutive Ohio Athletic Conference Goalkeeper of the Year award, has started all 23 games in net for the Crusaders, en route to the best save percentage in the OAC (.872), while also placing in the top five in the OAC in goals against (17), goals-against average (0.76), and saves (116).

In her last five starts, Donnellan has posted a shutout win in each of them, including back-to-back shutout victories in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Ells, the 2013 OAC Forward of the Year, tops the conference in points (28) and goals (14), having played a key role during the Crusaders' entire 2013 campaign, including six goals throughout Capital's eight game win streak.

Freshman Becca Cartmill (Temecula, Calif.) and sophomore Jamie Murray (Micanopy, Fla.) have also helped bolster Capital's offensive attack, as Cartmill tops the OAC in assists (10) and is tied for eighth in the OAC in points (18), while Murray places in the top seven in the conference in both points (19) and goals (8).

Seven other players have at least five points this season, while the top offensive performers for Capital in the NCAA Tournament, starters Maura Fortino (Philadelphia, Pa.), Richards and Claire Quinn (Coto de Caza, Calif.), have tallied a combined 18 points on the year.

Defensively, the Crusaders have been stellar all season, as their veteran backline of midfielders and defenders have helped anchor the defensive front in front of Donnellan.

Geiger (Norwood, Ohio), Corey McClellan (Columbus, Ohio) and Lauren Roy (Toledo, Ohio), as well as Richards, have played key roles in allowing a miniscule 11.3 shots per game, on a 0.66 shot percentage, to their opponents this season.

Thomas More, winner of the Presidents' Athletic Conference Tournament, comes into the round of 16 having defeated Allegheny (Pa.) in round one of the NCAA Tournament (2-1), while also taking down Hanover (Ind.) in the round of 32 (1-0) this past weekend.

This season, the Saints have played six opponents that the Crusaders have also faced, including defeats of four OAC teams in John Carroll (5-0), Otterbein (2-0), Ohio Northern (2-0) and Marietta (5-0).

Similarly, Capital went a combined 6-2, including the OAC Tournament, against the same six opponents that Thomas More faced.

The Saints are led offensively by sophomore Olivia Huber, who tops the team in points (52), while placing in the top 15 in the country in goals (22), and tying for the team lead in assists (8).

Senior Courtney Clark follows with 36 points on 14 goals and eight assists, while seven other players for the Saints have at least eight points on the year, including three players with at least 12.

Freshman goalkeeper Megan Barton has started 17 of the 20 games that she appeared in goal, posting a 0.31 goals-against average, .853 save percentage, en route to a 17-0 record in the net, including eight shutouts.

The winner of this coming Saturday's round of 16 match will face the Washington-Puget Sound (Wash.) winner in the quarterfinals on Sunday, Nov. 24, at 1:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. Eastern).