The UW-La Crosse women’s soccer team continued a run of new accomplishments by completing its most impressive to date on Saturday.
The Eagles became NCAA Division III postseason winners for the first time by beating St. Scholastica 2-0 in a first-round game at Veterans Memorial Field.
La Crosse (18-1-3), which lost to Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.) in its only previous postseason appearance two years ago, will try to win another game today when it hosts St. Thomas (Minn.) in a second-round game at 1 p.m.
The Tommies (13-3-3) beat Wartburg (Iowa) 1-0 thanks to an early goal from La Crescent High School graduate Brielle Bierman, who scored for the fifth time this season.
Advancing was a big deal for the Eagles, but they have their eyes on making their season even bigger today.
“It means a lot of hard work,” La Crosse coach Jason Murphy said of the first-round victory. “There are a lot of players — current and former — that have put a lot into this program, and for us to be able to get a result for all those people, that’s really important to me.”
The Eagles proved they were ready to play early by directing four shots on the St. Scholastica goal in the first eight minutes. The first successful shot came in the 18th minute, when freshman Tori Barnhart converted a pass from freshman Kaitlyn Villars.
The Eagles’ second goal came in the 39th minute. That’s when Rachel Rogahn scored her third goal of the season with an assist from Alex Cording.
“I just saw the opportunity and I wanted to finish my chances,” Rogahn said. “I knew every chance counts in theses games, so I made sure to make the best of them.”
The win came as a team effort for the Eagles, who put 10 of their 28 shots on goal. Cording and Villars put three shots on goal, and Maya Schmitt added two.
“Maya Schmitt played phenomenally. She really dictated the game in the first half, and in the start of the second half she was really able to just move the ball well,” Murphy said of the WIAC defensive player of the year. “Katie Feller and Delaney (Harnell) played really well in the back in the second half. They did a really good job on being organized and limiting their counter attacks, but then also being really good in possession.”
Freshman Lily Brock wasn’t challenged in goal for the Eagles. St. Scholastica managed just five shots, and she only had to save two of them.
The Eagles expect another cold day of soccer against St. Thomas, but success on Saturday and all of the hurdles the program has cleared throughout the season should make it confident.
The Tommies were La Crosse’s second opponent of the regular season, and the teams tied at 2.
“Mentally, we need to put this game behind us not in a way that we need to forget about it,” Schmitt said, “but in a way to know how to be better (today).”