By Kaelin Triggs
Webster University’s women’s soccer team brought home its 10th SLIAC championship on Saturday, Nov. 9. The Gorloks defeated Greenville University 1-0 to secure an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament.
The SLIAC championship game was full of emotions according to associate head women’s soccer coach Mike Hutchison. He said watching the team’s progress throughout the season made winning this championship even more emotional.
“The commitment from the players makes you feel so good about what you are trying to accomplish with them,” Hutchison said. “When you see that commitment, it makes you want to work harder for them.”
The Gorloks and Greenville both went into the conference tournament sharing the conference regular-season winning record. Both teams held a record of 7-1-1 in conference play. However, Webster had a better overall season record going into the tournament with 13 wins and only four losses. Greenville entered the tournament as the second seed behind Webster with 10 wins and six losses.
Head coach Luigi Scire said team goals for the season included winning the regular-season title, winning the conference tournament and making it to the NCAA tournament. Scire said the team’s focus and discipline helped them accomplish those goals.
“They’re a special group,” Scire said. “Last year, we fell short of [the NCAA tournament], losing in the semi-finals, but that was our motivation. We felt that we were a team destined to win that championship last year. So, we made sure we came back and won it this year by staying focused on that goal.”
The Gorloks are on a six-game winning streak and have ended their conference play. Along with winning the last six games, the team has not been scored on the last six games.
Webster beat both Blackburn College and MacMurray College 3-0 on Oct. 23 and Oct. 26. The following week, Webster defeated Principia 6-0 and Greenville 1-0 to win the SLIAC regular-season title. The team went on to shutout Westminster and Greenville 1-0 to win the conference tournament.
Sophomore defender Jenna Stobie described the team as one unit. She said without each individual on the team, they would not be as successful.
“Every player on the team has an important role,” Stobie said. “This team is one of the most hardworking teams I have ever experienced. Everyone brings their best at practice and at games.”
In the conference championship game against Greenville, Webster outshot Greenville 21-11. With a little over five minutes left to play, midfielder Jordan Bilyeu shot off a rebound and gave the Gorloks a 1-0 lead over Greenville.
Hutchison said being able to keep Greenville shots at a long distance was a big factor to the championship game win. Goalkeeper Taryn Banfield had six saves in the game. Hutchison said if Banfield has the opportunity to see the ball and enough time to react to it, he has much faith she will stop a shot from 30-plus yards out.
Senior forward Savannah Page took 21 shots with four of those shots on goal. Senior forward Melissa Kasper took three shots in the winning performance, along with Page and Kasper, four other Gorloks combined for eight shots total.
“Offensively, I think we created opportunities from different areas, and we have different ways of doing it,” Hutchison said. “We are not predictable, and I think that’s what allowed us to get over the top.”
Scire said the team had to overcome some injuries, but that adversity helped to determine how resilient the team is. He said injuries presented the opportunity for a few freshmen to step up and fill spots, keeping the team moving in a positive direction.
“There is no room for negativity,” Stobie said. “No matter what the circumstances are, the love for the game and the passion for soccer stays very alive on the team.”
Stobie also said that their team captains were a huge factor to their success. She described team captains Lily Brauer, Olivia Osterhage, Melissa Kasper and Page as great role models and hardworking people.
Now that the team has advanced to the NCAA tournament, the coaching staff is looking to format a game plan to make the Gorloks successful.
“We have to establish ourselves quickly in these games,” Hutchison said. “There are some really exceptional teams in this tournament and we need to use these experiences [in the conference tournament] as a springboard to come out ready to go. We need to not feel our way through the games but to take charge early.”
The Gorloks play in the first round of the tournament on Nov. 15. A live stream will be available on NCAA.com.