The No. 16 Maroons emerged from the first two rounds of the NCAA DIII Regional unscathed. These two victories catapulted the team into the Sweet 16, where they will face off against Illinois Wesleyan.
The showdown this Saturday morning at the Stagg Soccer Field will not be the first meeting between the two sides. The 16–6–1 Titans are a familiar opponent, having won 1–0 against the Maroons (15–4–1) about two months ago.
Illinois Wesleyan is an offensive powerhouse. The striker combination of second-year Skyler Tomko and third-year Sydney Fox has led the Titans’ ferocious attack, which averages 2.65 goals per game. The two have provided more than a third of the team’s goals.
However, on Saturday morning, this unstoppable force meets an immovable object.
The Maroon defense has been nearly impenetrable this season. Fourth-year Katie Shivanandan and first-year Kaitlin Price anchor the dominant back line, which allows only 0.6 goals per game.
The goal-stopping duties, though, do not lie solely with the defenders. The effort starts with the offense and midfielders and ends with the goalkeeper.
“[The team] has had tremendous success stepping to challenge balls higher up in the field and working as a group to absorb and cover one another,” said third-year defender Emma Almon.
The offseason coaching addition of Kelly Lindsey has proved instrumental in this regard. Almon credits “a lot of success to her coaching and guidance.”
Through the first two games of the tournament, Illinois Wesleyan has scored six goals, while the Maroon defense has yet to need either of its fourth-year goalkeepers—Jacinda Reid and Mallory Morse—to make a save.
Third-year defender Bethany Robinson is confident that nobody can defeat the Maroons “if [the] back line continues to play as solidly as they did last week.”
The victor of this competition will play the winner of the match between Aurora University and Centre College, which will start upon conclusion of the Maroons’ game. The 19–3–1 Spartans of Aurora have not been beaten in their last 18 games. Their last loss was a 3–2 defeat at the hands of the Maroons on September 8. In that game, Chicago scored two goals in the last five minutes of regulation to capture the win.
The Spartans’ attack is led by third-year striker Nicci Bermudes, who is third in the nation in goals with 35. Aurora looks to advance further in this year’s national tournament after a disappointing first-round exit last season.
The 16–5–2 squad from Centre is much more of an unknown entity. Their only two common opponents with the Maroons are Emory and Case Western. The Colonels fell to Emory 1–0 and tied Case 1–1, whom the Maroons beat 2–1 and tied 0–0, respectively. Centre advanced to play Aurora after winning a penalty shootout against Puget Sound in the regionals last weekend.
Should the Maroons defeat Illinois Wesleyan, either Aurora or Centre would provide a formidable challenge. For now, however, the Maroons are focused on beating the Titans from IWU and taking the playoffs one step at a time.
Chicago kicks off at home on Saturday at 11 a.m. Aurora and Centre play immediately after, at 1:30 p.m. The winners of these two games play on Sunday at 1:30 p.m., again on Stagg Field.