The Tigers advanced to the NCAC tournament final with a dramatic, double-overtime 2-1 thriller over the 4th-ranked Wittenberg Tigers on Tuesday. The come from behind win put the NCAC regular-season champions at 11-6-1 for the year.
Both teams were familiar playing in overtime against each other, as their match during the regular season ended in another 2-1 OT win for DePauw.
“We all knew that this was a team and a game we could not overlook and that we had to come out believing we could win and play our game,” said junior goalie Riley Riordan, who made three saves in the winning effort. “I thought the game was a battle and that even if it wasn't the prettiest soccer at times, sometimes it doesn't have to be in order to get the result you want.”
Wittenberg opened the scoring with a goal from Kate Burns in the 18th minute of the first half off a free kick.
It would take 15 minutes until the Tigers evened up the score when a corner kick deflected off a Wittenberg defender into the back of the net for a DePauw goal.
The score would remain the same throughout the rest of regulation and the first overtime, despite Wittenberg controlling possession for most of play.
“I think there were times the game got away from us, but we stayed composed and stayed mentally and physically strong to not let down in those moments,” said Riordan.
Their mental toughness would pay off, as sophomore forward Kathryn Ruark scored off an assist from sophomore forward Bridget Brendza in the 108th minute during the second overtime, sending the Tigers home winners.
“The game was one of the most exhausting games we’ve played so far this season,” said Brendza. “It’s extremely difficult to beat a team twice, especially after going into double OT for the second time. Mentally, we came out on top and got the job done.”
DePauw will not be looking to make any big changes this week heading into the championship.
“The lion’s share of the preparation has already happened,” said head coach Megan McCormick. “We’ve talked all season about incremental improvement from game to game, and our approach will remain the same. It’s likely going to be another fast, physical game, so our mental preparation will be key."
The Tigers will be playing for the conference championship against Denison (15-3) on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at Reavis Stadium.