Despite not winning the UAA Championship, the Maroons have advanced to the NCAA DIII Tournament with an at-large bid for the second consecutive year. Chicago will Despite not winning the UAA Championship, the Maroons will host a four-team regional tomorrow through Sunday.
This season marks the 14th time the Maroons’ head coach Amy Reifert has led her squad to the NCAA DIII Championships in 24 seasons. While Reifert has guided her teams to finishes as high as second in the national tournament (2003), she has never been at the helm of a national champion.
This year may mark a change of those fortunes, as the No. 16 Maroons (13–4–1) kick off their postseason campaign against the Gorlocks of Webster University (14–4–3) at Stagg Field tomorrow.
With the significant implications of this game, it is important to note that the Maroons are approaching this game no differently than they would any other.
“We are approaching this game pretty much the same way as any regular season or conference match-up,” said third-year forward Mary Bittner. “However, this game is definitely more important and cannot end in a loss or tie. That being said, we have been focusing most of our efforts in practice on finishing and attacking so we can score goals and get the job done in 90 minutes on Saturday.”
Put quite plainly by Bittner, the Maroons are going to need to adjust from their last regular season match, when they were shut out by No. 13 Wash U, and find a way to get the ball in the back of the net. However, that’s easier said than done.
To get past the Gorlock defense, the South Siders are going to turn to some of their playmakers from this season, including first-year defender Kaitlin Price and third-year midfielder Nicole Mullen, who share the scoring lead for the team with five goals apiece. First-year forward Mia Calamari leads the team in assists with 11.
However, a team can’t win with just offense, and the Maroons have sported an impressive backline this season that has let up only an average of 0.67 goals per match. Anchoring the backline will be likes of fourth-year defender and captain Katie Shivanandan, but also fourth-year goalkeepers Mallory Morse and Jacinda Reid.
The Maroons’ goalkeeping approach this season may seem a little bizarre at first: has been alternating between Reid and Morse every half of every game. However, as the team’s ranking and second-place UAA finish demonstrate, the strategy has been nothing but a success, as the pair have combined for 13 wins on the season, nine of which were shutouts. This weekend, the fourth-years look to add a 10th shutout to that impressive total.
Regardless of all the stats from this season, the Maroons know that this match is just the beginning of something bigger, something everyone on the entire team has been fighting for since day one.
“We are so united, and we all want the same thing—a national championship—and are willing to do anything for it. For us, this first NCAA game is just the beginning of the show,” said second-year midfielder Lily Wolfenzon.
With their national title hopes on the line, the Maroons will kick off their journey this Saturday against Webster at 1 p.m., here in Chicago on Stagg Field. If they win that matchup, the South Siders will play at home again against the winner of the matchup between Augsburg College and UW–Oshkosh.