GREENSBORO, N.C. – A record-breaking season that included the University of Chicago's second-ever appearance in the sport's biggest stage came to a close Saturday in a hard-fought, 1-0 loss to No. 6 Williams in the 2017 NCAA Division III women's soccer national championship match.
In a year when the Maroons won their first 17 games and finished with program records in wins (22), shutouts (18), goals (80), goals allowed (7), and goals against average (0.29) the team's final game proved to a cruel finish to one of the greatest seasons in Maroons Head Coach Amy Reifert's 27-year tenure.
"It was a great Division III soccer game," Head Coach Amy Reifert said in the post-game press conference. "The level of competition and the back and forth of it – for a final, I'm not sure we could get much more than we did out of that.
"(Williams') kids played their hearts out just like ours did and I think it was exactly what a final should look like."
Sixth-ranked Williams (22-1-1) – who captured its first NCAA women's soccer title in 2015 – gained control early in the match, but the Maroons (22-2) regained their composure in the second half of the first period to create several scoring chances.
Williams finally struck in the 55th, when Danielle Sim and Natalie Turner-Wyatt one-touched a pass into the box to teammate and All-American Natasha Albaneze, who chipped it high and out of the reach of UChicago's keeper.
The final 20 minutes, however, was all Maroons. With a pressing attack that originated in the midfield from Mia Calamari, Jenna McKinney, Hanna Watkins, and Maddie DeVoe, UChicago would go on to finish the game with an advantage on shots, 14-12.
But the Maroons were unable to capitalize on several 1-v-1 situations against the stellar play of Barnhill, who stopped a total of six shots.
UChicago's duo of keepers finished with three saves, with starter Katie Donovan collecting two stops and first-year Miranda Malone had one. Corner kicks were even in the game, 4-4. Calamari, McKinney and Kelsey Moore were selected to the Final Four All-Tournament team for their efforts.
The game concluded a stellar career of the Maroons' five seniors – Calamari, Spiker, Moore, Whitley Cargile and Caroline Olivero, who led UChicago to its second-ever national title game appearance (the first since 1996) and in total made four NCAA appearances, including berths in the Sweet 16 (2014) and Final Four (2016).
The class finishes with a four-year overall record of 68-18-2.
"What I said to our team at the end of the day is that today's loss wasn't going to be what defined us," Reifert added. "What we did to get here in terms of who we are as a group and how much these women care about one another and what that care looks like, in terms of how much they're willing to sacrifice and give to one another is just remarkable."
She also reflected on her senior class.
"What's so impressive about this group is (the seniors) consistently lived everything they did and they consistently demanded that from everyone around them … there's no doubt that this group of women is going to walk away as seniors knowing that they created something really special and the rest of (our players) are going to think about how to maintain it, and how to create it again and again."