*During the current hiatus of collegiate sport action, UChicago Athletics is running a story series called “Maroon Moments”, which will highlight some of the top performances and most pivotal contests from the last two years across all Maroon athletic teams.
CHICAGO – When the NCAA Division III Championship selections were announced on November 11, 2019, University of Chicago women’s soccer found itself exactly where it wanted to be. The No. 16-ranked Maroons would once again be hosting the NCAA Regional at the friendly confines of Stagg Field.
For Head Coach Amy Reifert, staying local went beyond just the numbers. UChicago had won nearly 85 percent of its matches at Stagg over the past five seasons. But the lack of travel for her players would be just as important.
“Having home field advantage is everything in the playoffs,” Reifert said. “Sleeping in your own bed, being in a comfortable routine, not worrying about any missed classes – it just allows the players to focus on the game.”
After rolling past University of Pittsburgh – Greensburg in the opening round 5-0, the Maroons rode their offensive momentum to a 4-1 victory over Augsburg University the next day to advance to the NCAA Round of 16.
An unexpected challenge right off the bat would be Mother Nature. In the days before the weekend games, half a foot of snow was dumped on Chicago. Crews worked continuously to clear the turf and grass fields to make the surfaces ready in time.
“As we all remember, our entire department worked relentlessly for days to make that field playable by removing six inches of snow and our team was pumped to make the most of the opportunity that my colleagues created for them,” said Reifert. “As for the field itself, it was in remarkable shape and a place where we feel incredibly confident and comfortable playing.”
The Sunday match-up brought a familiar foe to the Stagg Field grass. UChicago previously hosted Augsburg during the NCAA postseason in 2014 and 2016, with the Maroons winning both bouts by scores of 3-0 and 2-0, respectively.
November and December soccer has been a familiar setting for the Maroons over the years. Under Reifert’s leadership, the UChicago women have qualified for 19 NCAA tournaments since 1996. The cold and the snow would not deter the team’s focus.
“As you move deeper into the season and hit NCAAs, that part is easy,” said the veteran head coach. “We have worked way too hard all year long to allow bad weather to impact our success. In some ways, the elements help us to focus more.”
As the game got underway, both sides had prime scoring opportunities narrowly miss. Augsburg hit the crossbar with an attempt in the 10th minute, while UChicago junior defender Maddie DeVoe smacked a shot off the post one minute later.
First blood was drawn in the 20th minute when rookie midfielder Annie Mitchell threaded her way through traffic to score her first collegiate goal. Just three minutes later, the lead doubled on a superlative strike from senior midfielder Hanna Watkins. Augsburg headed out a cross attempt by the Maroons and the loose ball bounded to the top of the box. Watkins was ready for the moment as she drilled a one-timer inside the right post from 19 yards away. It marked her team-leading 12th goal of the season.
That 2-0 advantage held into halftime. As the match progressed, the Maroons imposed their will more and more by controlling ball possession and the forward action. Another definitive blow was struck in the 59th minute by Adrianna Vera. The senior forward made it 3-0 with a header goal in front courtesy of assists from Watkins and junior forward Katie Jasminski.
While the Auggies clawed one back to break up the shutout in the 80th minute, UChicago snuffed out any comeback thoughts with another goal less than two minutes later. Sophomore forward Adriana Shutler scored one-on-one with the goalie after receiving a through ball from junior midfielder Claudia Hodgetts.
The fact that four different players scored that Sunday afternoon spoke to UChicago’s dangerous depth on the roster. Over the course of the season, 11 different players tallied multiple goals.
“The goals were amazing,” Reifert said. “Annie’s – which was her first of the season – came from sheer effort on her part. Hanna’s might have been the highlight goal of the season. Vera’s came from an amazing Katie Jasminski cross and then Audie, using the outside of her foot to find the corner of the goal. All were quality as was our defensive play which shut down one of the top scoring duos in the country. Miranda [Malone] had a couple of monster saves which kept them off the board early and changed the complexion of the game. It really was a total team effort.”
In the final box score, UChicago led the shots category 22-10, including 14-4 in shots on goal. Corner kicks were even at 4-4, while the Maroon defense successfully goaded Augsburg into five offsides calls. Malone made three saves in goal to earn the victory.
The Maroons concluded their successful 2019 campaign with an overall record of 14-3-3. They advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 for the 12th time in program history.