The No. 12 Maroons (11–3–1) hit the road today to face off against non-conference No. 7 Wheaton College (11–2–1) later tonight. This week’s NCAA Division III regional rankings placed Chicago No. 1 in the Midwest region, and Wheaton College No. 2.
With a long history of competitive matches against the Thunder, the Maroons are going into the game with eager anticipation. Last year’s match ended in a 1–1 tie after two grueling overtime periods. Additionally, the Maroons have failed to beat Wheaton in their past four matches. The squad used this rivalry as motivation in this week’s practices.
“This game is always heated because of a long-standing rivalry between us and Wheaton, and this year we are both ranked in the top 25 nationally, so it should be an excellent matchup,” said fourth-year captain and defender Katie Shivanandan.
“This week in practice we focused a lot on offensive patterns and strategies that will help us succeed against Wheaton’s unique style of defense,” said first-year midfielder Whitley Cargile. “We emphasized that games against Wheaton are always competitive and that this year will be no different. The outcome will show who the best team in the Midwest region really is.”
Although the rivalry hangs over their heads, the Maroons are going into the match with confidence and poise based on their strong performance thus far this season. Last weekend, in a pair of pivotal conference matches, the squad defeated Rochester 2–1 and then tied Case Western Reserve 0–0 in double overtime. Aware of where it stands, the team recognizes its strengths and is focused on using those strengths to its advantage in tonight’s matchup.
“Our biggest strength is the depth of our team,” Shivanandan said. “After a long weekend of two hard games against Rochester and Case Western, we will need everyone tonight, and everyone is up to the challenge.”
Additionally, the Maroons’ defensive effort all season has been remarkable. Just last weekend, the South Siders held Rochester to only six shot attempts in the game; fourth-year goalkeeper Jacinda Reid dominated, making four saves and only allowing one goal in her 80 minutes in the net. Overall, the Maroons have recorded an impressive eight shutouts during the season, including five in their last eight matches.
“We have been really good this season at finishing games strong. Once we have a lead, we are good at not getting too comfortable. If we are able to score early in the game, we’re confident in our defense’s ability to hold onto the lead and finish the game with a win,” Cargile said.
The Maroons hope to execute that strategy tonight. The South Siders take the pitch tonight at 7 p.m. at Wheaton.
Update: the Maroons fell to the Thunder in a 3–0 loss. Full recap next issue.