*During the current hiatus of collegiate sport action, UChicago Athletics is running a story series throughout the spring and summer called "Maroon Moments", which will highlight some of the top performances and most pivotal contests from the last two years across all Maroon athletic teams.
CHICAGO – The stakes were high when University of Chicago women's soccer hosted Carnegie Mellon University in their 2019 matchup. As the calendar progressed to the first weekend of November, the regular season was quickly drawing to a close. Both teams were in the thick of the University Athletic Association race, and Sunday's contest on the Stagg Field grass would determine who would get a leg up in the standings.
After absorbing a 2-0 home loss to Case Western Reserve University two days earlier, UChicago head coach Amy Reifert knew the weight of importance that a win against Carnegie Mellon would have.
"We had just come off of our first loss since September 7 and knew that bouncing back was critical in our fight for the UAA title and NCAA bid," Reifert said. "CMU, who we thought was one of the most talented teams in the UAA, was also coming off a tough loss at WashU. We knew it was going to be a battle and that how we started the game was going to be critical. Sundays in the UAA are often decided by will, composure and presence so we focused on preparing our team mentally to battle for 90 minutes."
The battle of wills commenced and the No. 12-ranked Maroons came out the other side with a thrilling 3-2 comeback victory over the No. 23-ranked Tartans. The result also bolstered UChicago's resume as the team went on to be selected into the NCAA Division III Championship field for the seventh-straight year.
The early minutes featured aggressive and frenetic action that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Both teams were attack minded, challenging every ball and pushing forward at each opportunity.
Two minutes into the game, CMU pounced on a contested rolling ball in the box and blasted a shot off the left post. Just 30 seconds later, a Tartan corner kick led directly to a header goal to give the visitors the lead.
A few minutes later, it was UChicago's turn to answer. Maddie DeVoe got possession and zoomed up the left side of the field, burning two defenders in her wake. She passed to the top of the six-yard box where wide-open Hanna Watkins deftly put her left foot on the ball to redirect it into goal.
Momentum swung right back to the visitors at the eight-minute mark. Carnegie Mellon earned a free kick and converted to recapture the lead 2-1. Despite giving up two goals off set pieces so early in the match, the Maroons remained focused and undeterred.
"I think the key for us was our senior leadership, especially Hanna and Clare Suter, who would not let the team back down even as we fell behind twice in the first eight minutes," Reifert said. "The first half was one of my favorite halves in my coaching career. To watch our team battle and come together as a unit and never stop believing we were going to win was so special."
The score was nearly knotted again at the 13-minute mark. A pair of one-touch passes found forward Katie Jasminski in prime scoring position, but her shot was saved. However, the breakthrough would eventually come in the 33rd minute, once again provided by Watkins.
Adrianna Vera popped a high-arching ball into the box to try to setup a teammate, which was seemingly cleared out of danger by two headers from CMU. But Jasminski found the ball just outside the 18-yard box on the right wing and chipped right back towards goal. Watkins readjusted and headed a shot past the goalie for her team-leading 10th goal of the season.
As the two teams headed into halftime tied at 2-2, the energy shifted permanently in UChicago's favor. The hosts outshot CMU 10-3 in the second half, which included three shots on goal between the 53rd and 54th minutes. The go-ahead goal briefly appeared to occur with 28 minutes left in regulation, when Watkins booted a perfect through ball to Rachel Dias in front. However, the score was waved off by an official's offside call.
Even as the minutes ticked away and overtime loomed, a deciding moment felt inevitable. It came in the 83rd minute. DeVoe was on the attack and chipped the ball into the box looking for an onrushing teammate. CMU's defense committed an obvious handball on the play, which the referee spotted. A penalty kick was on tap. Watkins, who was the team's primary PK option, gave DeVoe the go-ahead to take it.
"Maddie was a leader for us all season long but in the left back position, she did not get as many offensive opportunities as she had seen in the past two years," Reifert said. "As I watched her grab the ball and set it down, I knew she would score a goal. Her body language was so confident and composed."
DeVote indeed delivered, freezing the goalkeeper and burying the shot confidently to give her team the 3-2 lead.
The Tartans pushed valiantly in the final minutes for an equalizer, but none came as the Maroons walked off the pitch as happy victors.
"It was our most special win of the season," said Reifert. "It was against an incredibly talented team who was ranked number one in their region. It catapulted us into the tourney, and combined with the tie the following weekend, probably enabled us to host the first weekend of NCAAs. It also solidified the belief in our players, that going down a goal not just once but twice is something we can overcome!"
With a loaded conference of nationally-ranked contenders, the UAA ultimately saw five of its teams qualify for the NCAA postseason. The Maroons concluded the year with a 14-3-3 record, won twice in the bracket and advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 for the 12th time in program history.