SALEM, Va. – The University of Chicago women's soccer team closed out a historic season with a 1-0 overtime loss to Messiah College in the NCAA Division III Championship semifinal on Friday.
The No. 11-ranked Maroons ended the year with an overall record of 18-4-1. They tied the school records for wins in a season and shutouts in a season (14). UChicago also produced the second-best single-season marks in goals scored (62), assists (53) and goals allowed (10). The No. 5-ranked Falcons (22-2) advanced to the national championship match.
"What a great game," said Head Coach Amy Reifert. "That's what the Final Four is supposed to be like, in terms of level of level of competition and in terms of kids doing some really special things to help their team be successful. I'm not sure it gets much better than that. Messiah is hugely talented. ... They force you to play the perfect three or four passes in-a-row to be successful to beat them. A couple of times we did, and just didn't quite get the finish we wanted."
UChicago made its fourth NCAA semifinal appearance in program history. All three of its meetings with Messiah have occurred in the postseason (2005, 2008, 2016).
The first half took the tone of a defensive battle. The Maroons manufactured four of the opening five shots of the game over the course of 17 minutes. Junior forward Madori Spiker and senior midfielder Sophia Kim both put shots on frame early that were saved by the goalkeeper.
The offense trailed off from there as nearly 23 minutes elapsed until the next shot was taken by either team. A 20-yard strike by the Falcons was thwarted by UChicago freshman goalkeeper Katie Donovan, who made a diving save with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.
At halftime, the match remained even at 0-0, with matching stat lines of four shots and two shots on goal for each side.
Messiah had a breakaway shot that went wide left at the 49:02 mark in the second half. UChicago put forward a pair of chances from junior midfielder Mia Calamari and Kim in the 51st and 52nd minutes that also pushed wide.
The Falcons sandwiched two more shots on goal around a corner kick from the 68th to 71st minutes. Donovan saved both chances once again to keep the match scoreless. UChicago shots in the 81st and 87th minutes were both wide, while a pair of Messiah attacks in the 83rd and then in the final minute were saved.
The match headed to overtime, where junior forward Caroline Olivero's shot was saved two-and-a-half minutes in. However, the Falcons struck the game-winning tally at the 93:04 mark with a one-timer volley off a cross.
In the final stats, Messiah held narrow edges in shots (11-9) and corner kicks (3-2). Donovan (18-4-1) finished the match with five saves and one goal allowed.
"I thought our back line did a tremendous job shutting them down," Reifert said. "On a couple occasions when the back line wasn't quite up to par with #10 running at us, Katie stepped up, cut angles and really she made it look easier probably than what it was in terms of the saves she made."
With her freshman year concluded, Donovan reflected with pride on the team's success in reaching the Final Four.
"I came in knowing I just had to work my hardest and I didn't know what would come out of it," Donovan said. "Everything that has occurred since coming in has been unbelievable and the team has exceeded all expectations. It's just been such a great time."