Wash U wins women's soccer

Junior Megan Wolf converted the game-winning penalty kick as the No. 8-ranked Washington University in St. Louis women's soccer team posted a 5-4 shootout victory over No. 6 Messiah College to claim the 2016 NCAA Division III national championship Saturday at Kerr Stadium in Salem, Va.

The game ended in a 1-1 tie after 110 minutes of play.

The national championship for the women's soccer team is its first in school history, and the 20th in the history of the WashU athletic department.

WashU improved to 19-2-3, while Messiah ended its season with a 22-3 mark. The 19 wins are tied for the third most in school history.

"Today was exactly what a national championship should be. It was a tremendous game," said coach Jim Conlon, who coached his 200th contest at WashU. "I am very proud of these women. This group really let the sport of soccer help us grow. That is what we are trying to do, to make them better people. I am incredibly humbled to be their coach."

WashU converted all five penalty kicks in the shootout: sophomore Caroline Dempsey, junior Kelly Von Zup, sophomore Jessica Kovach, junior Gillian Myers and Wolf.

"I was lucky enough to be the last one. All the girls in front of me did their job and that is exactly what the team needed us to do," Wolf said. "This is something that every athlete has dreamed of since they were a little kid."

Messiah outshot WashU 7-3 in the first half and had the slight advantage with two shots on goal. The Bears registered one shot on goal and had two chances to score.

Junior Mia Mastroianni's shot in the 12th minute was corralled by Messiah goalkeeper Sara Yunez, and then Kovach's shot just inside the 18 snuck over the bar in the 31st minute.

Washington University celebrates its first-ever women's soccer national championship.
Photo by Dave Hilbert, d3photography.com

The pace of play picked up midway through the second half and WashU nearly broke through in the 60th minute when sophomore Darcy Cunningham's shot inside the six was denied by Yunez. Messiah countered and Marisa Weaver fired a shot inside the box that senior goalkeeper Lizzy Crist made the save.

Photo by Dave Hilbert, d3photography.com
All-time champions
Year Champion
1986 Rochester
1987 Rochester
1988 William Smith
1989 UC San Diego *
1990 Ithaca
1991 Ithaca
1992 Cortland State
1993 Trenton State #
1994 Trenton State #
1995 UC San Diego *
1996 UC San Diego *
1997 UC San Diego *
1998 Macalester
1999 UC San Diego *
2000 TCNJ
2001 Ohio Wesleyan
2002 Ohio Wesleyan
2003 Oneonta State
2004 Wheaton (Ill.)
2005 Messiah
2006 Wheaton (Ill.)
2007 Wheaton (Ill.)
2008 Messiah
2009 Messiah
2010 Hardin-Simmons
2011 Messiah
2012 Messiah
2013 William Smith
2014 Lynchburg
2015 Williams
2016 Washington U.
* No longer in Division III.
# Trenton State is now known as TCNJ.

Freshman Taylor Cohen gave WashU the 1-0 advantage in the 72nd minute after she took a cross from senior Lexie Sprague and buried a shot just over the head of Yunez. The goal for Cohen was her sixth of the season.

WashU held the one-goal lead until the 84th minute, when Erin Sollenberger scored off a rebound from DJ Cole to tie the score.

"To be able to respond after going down 1-0 was terrific, and I'm really proud of this group," Messiah coach Scott Frey said of his team's response late in the game. "At that point, it's easy to go 'well, this game is close to over, and maybe it's not our time.' But once again this team fought back, and showed what they were really made of."

Crist came up big with 18 seconds left in the second overtime when she smothered a shot from inside the six by Kate Shults.

With the penalty kicks looming, Messiah keeper Sara Yunez was focused on putting her team in a good position.

"Save the ball," Yunez said with a chuckle when asked afterward about what was going through her head before the shootout. "We all wanted to work hard today to get a different result than we've had in the past two years, but it doesn't always play out the way you want it to."

Each of the penalty kick scores was clean, even as Crist and Yunez guessed correctly on a few shots. But in the end the Falcons came up short, and the tears came just as quickly as the Bears raced onto the field in celebration.

"Congrats to WashU," Frey said. "I thought it was a fantastic game. Both teams played good soccer, and it was the game I thought it was going to be: very competitive, with physical moments, and each team dictating the play at times. 

"They were great tonight and the result was well-deserved."

Crist (19-1-3) made a season-high six saves in the contest, and was named the NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the second-straight season. Senior Katie Chandler was named the NCAA championship Most Outstanding Player after scoring two goals in the semifinals, while Cohen and senior back Megan Nicklay were named to the All-Tournament Team. 

"We are humbled to have the support of our Bear nation and our soccer families," Conlon added. "We are very thankful and honored to be the national champion in 2016."

Messiah outshot WashU 16-10 and had a 4-3 advantage in corner kicks.

WashU's senior class (Chandler, Crist, Nicklay, Hannah RosenbergAllie Schiffman, Sprague) concluded their four-year career tied for the winningest in school history with a 72-10-7 (.843) overall record.

"I am so thankful to my team and the coaching staff who help prepare us along the way," said Crist. "I hope we have left a legacy of hard work and humility and thankfulness.

BEAR NOTEBOOK: Messiah and WashU have split three all-time meetings 1-1-1, all in the NCAA Tournament … The Bears are 33-13-8 record in 16 all-time NCAA appearances … WashU was in the national championship game for the second-straight season and for the third time in school history (2009, 2015, 2016) … The Bears were 7-0-1 against ranked teams this year … WashU ended the season on a 14-game unbeaten streak.