COLUMBUS, Ohio – A more thrilling game could not have been scripted to define this year's Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Champion. Late goals, scoreless overtimes and a back-and-forth shootout were featured at Bernlohr Stadium where top-seeded Capital University bounced back to defeat second seed Ohio Northern University in penalty kicks. The Crusaders have now won three consecutive OAC Tournament championships and have earned an automatic bid to this year's NCAA Division III Tournament.
After dominating play for a majority of the contest, Ohio Northern scored twice to take a lead heading into the final minutes of regulation. Capital (14-4-1) promptly increased its offensive pressure and began feeding the ball into the ONU zone and lived there for the duration of the contest. Claire Quinn (Coto de Caza, Calif.) tossed the ball into the box where the Crusaders went to work. Ohio Northern keeper Emily Brodict made a key stop against Monique Hanayik. Immediately afterward, senior Mariah Richards sent in a pair of shots, one that was blocked and the second that hit the post. The ricochet placed the ball on Hanayik's foot, where she tapped it in with just under three minutes to go.
The tie lasted the duration of regulation and remained through two 10-minute overtime sessions, prompting a five-round shootout to determine a winner.
Capital goalkeeper Kim Leitch (Rocky River, Ohio) made huge save diving to her right to give Capital the early advantage, which they maintained heading into the fourth round of penalty kicks. Quinn, Becca Cartmill and Hanayik all made their shots, but Richards was stopped by Brodict to level the competition. Hannah Moloney approached the line and her chip shot flied high of the crossbar, setting up the evening's heroine, Maura Fortino. The senior from Philadelphia, Pa. made her move to the left while Brodict answered to the opposite side, clearing the way for the game-ending score.
The Crusaders held possession of the ball in the ONU defensive zone for nearly the entire first half and a majority of the second. They held a wide advantage in shots taken, 30-7, over the Polar Bears and generated eight corner kicks to ONU's two.
Among their many scoring chance, senior Morgan Austin (Jeromesville, Ohio) set up the Crusaders' first goals by floating in a pass to the far-side post where sophomore Caroline Hester (Milford, Ohio) had slipped past the defense and tapped the ball in the back of the net.
Ohio Northern had a strong seven-minute stretch where it scored both of their goals. Their first came off of a penalty kick stemming from a foul call in the box against Capital. Sarah Puntel connected on the attempt to tie the game, and then struck again five minutes later when she connected on a ball that was thrown in from the near side of the field. With 11 minutes left to go, Ohio Northern was close to winning the match before Capital's wild comeback to force overtime.
With the win, Capital will make another return trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the third year in a row. The selection show will be early next week, where they will find their regional destination and first-round opponent. Return to athletics.capital.edu for details on both the selection show and the Crusaders' upcoming tournament opponent.