Sometimes the best team doesn’t win.
In a game where Chicago (11–5–3) dominated Capital (17–4–1) for almost the entirety of the game, the Crusaders were able to get one goal during double overtime to bring the score to 1–0. With that goal, after 101 minutes of play, the South Siders were officially eliminated from the NCAA DIII tournament.
Chicago started off strong and held possession for much of the game. Capital was kept on the defensive for the first half, as the Maroons outshot the Crusaders 11–1 and held a 5–0 advantage in corner kicks. Though the South Siders had a number of good opportunities that looked like they could have gone in, the Capital goalie responded with big saves, keeping the game scoreless through the first half.
The second half was more of the same, though the Crusaders started to even out play with a few shots on goal. The South Siders held the shot advantage 6–5, but neither team could get on the scoreboard.
“Throughout the 90 minutes of regular play, Capital rarely crossed midfield and at times their goalie even resorted to killing the game off by keeping the ball at her feet, sure signs that they were scared of us and our dangerous attacks,” said fourth-year captain Natalia Jovanovic.
With their chance to advance in the tournament on the line, the Maroons were even more aggressive in the first period of overtime. During those 10 minutes the South Siders took five shots. Second-year forward Mary Bittner and second-year midfielder Nicole Mullen both had shots on goal that were kept out by the Capital goalie.
Just one minute into the second period of overtime, the Crusaders scored, and ended the Maroons’ hopes of reaching the second round. Capital aimed a corner kick across the goal, and the 20-mph winds that blew throughout the game carried the ball to hit the back post and eventually into the goal.
“It was an unfortunate fluke that did not reflect how we dominated and possessed the entire game,” Jovanovic said. “It was obviously heartbreaking because we knew we were the better team.”
The team was disappointed to end its season in this manner, but the Maroons know they fought hard and left it all out on the field.
“Although we would have liked things to turn out differently, we are proud of our performance and ended our season knowing we were playing our greatest soccer,” Jovanovic said.
Overall, the Maroons have performed well this season, demonstrated by strong showings against a number of competitive teams. Chicago faced Wash U and Wheaton this season—both of which have held the No. 1 national ranking at some point—and held its own.
“Our team had a great season this year not only because we have talented players but because we embody the meaning of being a team,” Jovanovic said. “We care for each other, work hard for each other, and bring passion and energy to each practice and game. This was one of the best teams I have been on in my career here which makes it difficult to believe that our season is over.”
Jovanovic, who was one of nine fourth-years to have played her final game for the Maroons, also had time to reflect on her career in Chicago.
“I personally have enjoyed every moment on this team and cannot believe how fast it went,” Jovanovic said. “The people in this program are incredible and have made [this] a great journey.”