The University of Chicago men’s and women’s soccer teams both competed in exciting matches in the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament to varying outcomes.
In a match that came down to the wire, the women’s team lost 2–1 to Grove City College in the first round, capping off another strong season with the program’s 18th NCAA appearance.
The Maroons, who earned an at-large bid after finishing the regular season 13–4–1 and fourth in the UAA conference, traveled to Centre College in Kentucky. Led by four-time All-UAA performer, fourth-year midfielder Jenna McKinney, the team entered the postseason with high expectations, after advancing to the National Championship last season, where they fell 1–0 to Williams College.
On Saturday, though, the team could never quite break through, despite Chicago’s statistical dominance, and a late goal by Grove City member Maggie Williams sent the Wolverines onto the next round.
Grove City struck first, when Ruby Mattson scored on an unassisted shot in the 25th minute. The Wolverines wouldn’t lead for long. Less than five minutes later, the Maroons tied it, 1–1, as first-year Nicole Willing found the back of the net on an assist from second-year Katie Jasminski.
The score remained knotted through halftime and well into the second half. Throughout the match, the Maroons seemed destined to take the lead but were unable to capitalize on their offensive attack. Grove City goalkeeper Columbia Harkrader emerged with save after save, recording 13 saves on Chicago’s 29 total shots (14 on goal).
While the Chicago attack notched 11 corner kicks, the backline stymied the Wolverines, limiting them to just six shots (four on goal) and no corner kicks.
With only four minutes left on the scoreboard, Grove City’s Williams notched the game-winner on an unassisted strike. The Maroons continued to fight, but several late scoring chances proved unsuccessful.
The Chicago women will graduate one of the most successful classes in program history, as McKinney, Madison Navarro, Dana Ulrich, Sydney Mathis, and Naomi Weiner depart. McKinney finishes her career with 43 goals and 107 points, both second all-time in UChicago history. During their tenure, the team captured competed in four NCAA Tournaments, advanced to two Final Fours and one National Championship game, and compiled a cumulative record of 66–18–2.
The team’s outlook for next season remains promising. The team returns eight starters, including four All-UAA performer and a bevy of underclassmen, including eight rookies who saw action on Saturday.
The men’s team played in a similarly exciting match, but this time it was the Maroons who emerged victorious due to first-year Kyle Ruark’s late game heroics.
After winning the UAA conference and receiving a first round bye, the Maroons suited up against Carleton on Sunday evening.
Coming into the match championship aspirations, the Chicago offense stormed out, creating multiple goal-scoring opportunities in the opening ten minutes. Fourth-year Max Lopez nearly recorded the opener twice, but Carleton goalkeeper Aaron Froman came up with clutch saves.
The match continued in this manner—Chicago’s potent offense continued to produce scoring chances, but, time and time again, Carleton’s organized defensive effort kept the Maroons off the scoreboard. The Maroons recorded 24 shots (11 on goal), while the Knights seemed content to sit back on defense and counterattack in spurts.
The match took a dramatic turn, though, in the 27th minute as the Knights’ counterattack led to a questionable foul call. Carleton’s Alvin Bierley lined up for a free kick and unleashed a shot that hurtled off the crossbar and into the goal.
Down 1–0, Chicago’s attack took on more urgency but failed to create any clear chances against Carleton’s fierce defense before halftime. Chicago continued to search for the tying score in the second half, only for Carleton to pack in their defense.
In the 50th minute, it seemed as though the Maroons had found their answer. Fourth-year Matthew Koh, 2018 UAA MVP, received a pass from fellow fourth-year Josh Scofield beyond the far post. Koh found first-year Vicente Mateus in front of goal, but, once again, the Carleton keeper recorded an impressive save on the point-blank shot.
The Maroons continued their direct attack, but, as the minutes ticked off the clock, their hopes dwindled. It seemed as though Carleton, riding a 16-game winning streak, would pull off the stunning upset, until Chicago third-year Dayo Adeosun notched the equalizer.
After a flurry of opportunities in front of goal, Adeosun collected the ball out wide on the left. He cut into the middle and uncorked an astonishing shot from the top of the box. The low strike in the 79th minute swerved into the net’s right corner, and the Maroons had finally tied the game.
Both teams searched for the decisive goal in the last 10 minutes, but the game seemed nearly certain to head to overtime. With less than 90 seconds on the clock, though, the Maroons found their winner.
Koh sent the ball from the right sideline across the net, where a crowd of players awaited. The ball slipped through the tangle, and Ruark emerged out of nowhere to redirect the cross into the goal. The final Carleton shot was deflected, and the Maroons celebrated their astonishing comeback win.
Of the win, Mateus said, “It was a pretty crazy game, but our team trusted each other to the point that we knew that, regardless of us being down a goal, we’d still come back from it. A comeback win with 12 minutes remaining really is a great way to start off the tournament, and now we want to keep pushing for more and end up in the national championship game at Greensboro. The whole team knows this is special, and we all feel that this could be the year we go all the way.”
The thrilling last-minute conversion from Ruark sent the Maroons onto the Sweet 16, where they will play Trinity University at home on November 17. The game will likely be another exciting one, as the two teams tied, 3–3, early in the second game of the season.