December 1, 2017

Chicago defeat TCNJ 1-0 to reach women's final

Other Semifinal Recaps:  Women's Semifinal 2 Men's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2
Senoir forward Caroline Olivero was active in attack for the Maroons, putting two shots on frame shortly after halftime.

Photos by Dave Hilbert,

The Chicago Maroons took advantage of some early nervous play from the TCNJ Lions defense to grab the lead just six minutes into the contest. The Lions gradually settled in to the match but the Chicago defense held the high octane TCNJ offense at bay for much of the contest and the Lions were unable to generate many threats. The Lions most dangerous opportunity with seventeen minutes remaining was foiled by defender Whitley Cargile as she held off All American Christine Levering in front of an open net. From there, the Maroons kept their composure and snuffed out the Lions' desperation attacks over the remainder of the contest.

First Half

Entering this contest both sides looked be very even along a number of dimensions with most key statistics quite similar. If either had an advantage it was the intangible gained from Chicago’s 2016 Final Four experience. And that may have been the key to the match when TCNJ looked quite shaky at the open. The Maroons’ Madori Spiker, who hounded the Lions’ back line all game, stole the ball and just 15 seconds in fired a shot from inside the 18 that missed just high.

Starting a trend that would characterize much of this back and forth game, TCNJ responded and advanced on the attack. Jessica Goldman earned a corner leading to TCNJ’s first shot of the day, a blast wide left by Goldman.

In the sixth minute, more nerves on the part of the Lions’ defenders led to the decisive moment of the match. Spiker again pressing hard, took the ball off a defender’s foot and got to the top left of the box. She then sent a perfect cross to Hanna Watkins, running unmarked through the center of the box, whose shot hit right side netting. 

The Lions were not able to muster much of a response and the Maroons kept pressing. In the tenth minute Spiker was at it again with another steal. TCNJ keeper, Nicole DiPasquale, came hard off her line to prevent the Lions from going down 2-0.

In a battle of All-Americans, TCNJ's Christine Levering gets past Chicago's Mia Calamari in search of a second half equalizer.

TCNJ came out tight and looking nervous in their first Final Four but after spending the first several minutes on their back foot, the Lions gradually began to get a piece of the game. In the 14th minute Goldman, TCNJ’s most productive player on the day, earned two corners in quick succession but the Lions were unable to generate a shot.

Midway through the first half, Chicago keeper, first team All Central Region, Katie Donovan unfortunately had to sub out apparently the result of a knock during the scrum after one of the earlier TCNJ corners.  She was relieved by a well prepared Miranda Malone who has split net minding duties with Donovan all season.

Neither side was able to create anything threatening for some time until Hannah Watkins headed just wide a well-served ball into the box from Rachel Dias. The Maroons kept up the pressure gaining two direct kicks in their offensive third. The Lions dispatched the first in reasonably comfortable fashion. A strong punch clearance by DiPasquale dealt with the second and led to a counter attack and a near breakaway for the Lions but a long pass over the top did not connect.

Over the final five the Lions finished with a flurry that started with a solid shot by Hannah Richman but finished empty handed after a close offside call.

At the half, both sides had frequent turns on the attack. Chicago seemed to have less possession in attacking third but they created more dangerous opportunities. TCNJ had more sustained possession but fewer real threats.  TCNJ was fortunate not to be down 0-2 or more.

Second Half

The Maroons started off solidly on their front foot again. Just three minutes in Caroline Olivero surprised DiPasquale with a quick shot to the near post that took an agile effort by the TCNJ keeper to push just past the post. After a corner kick and another shot, Spiker laid off a ball to Watkins whose attempt was just wide left. Five minutes in and Chicago had already created three solid efforts at extending their lead.  

Now it was TCNJ’s turn. The Lions had better of play for the next ten minutes with Thorensen, Goldman, Levering (on the shot chart finally in the 60th minute) and Goldman again, all with good chances to equalize.

Chicago went on the attack again with Calamari getting a chance to double the lead but her shot went harmlessly wide.  Shortly after that TCNJ defender Jen McGrogan did well to snuff out another Maroon opportunity coming after a throw in.

Chicago’s final shot of the match, by Calamari, was taken in the 66th.   From that point forward TCNJ was pressing hard for an equalizer.  Malone had to stop both Thorensen and Goldman in quick succession.  TCNJ’s best chance of the contest came with 16:34 remaining when Levering picked off a back header from one of the Chicago defenders leaving her 1 v 1 with Malone.  Malone came out hard but slid past the ball leaving the net open. However, Malone’s charge slowed Levering just enough to allow Maroon defender Whitley Cargile to recover and knock the ball harmlessly over the end line.

Spiker was involved in two more opportunities for a clincher but DiPasquale cleaned up both. From that point TCNJ stayed on the attack but Chicago did not panic. The Maroons did an excellent job of staying compact and marking well. Over the final ten minutes, the Lions had another corner and three more shots but none on goal. Chicago killed off the better part of the last three minutes holding the ball in the corner.

After the opening few minutes the second was a nearly equal half with TCNJ nearly equalizing late and Chicago doing an excellent job of holding the lead.  Other than the first ten minutes this was a well-played enjoyable contest between two great squads. TCNJ was a worthy opponent and Chicago a deserving victor.

TCNJ ends their season with a 21-1-1 mark and their first Final Four appearance since 2000.  Chicago advances to the championship match for the first time since 1993 and are looking to become the fourth consecutive first time champion when they meet the Williams Ephs, the 2015 champion.

Other Semifinal Recaps:  Women's Semifinal 2 Men's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2
No contests today.
No contests today.
No contests today.