Senior midfielders Brianne Moore and Jackie Ernest, defender Casey Boyer, and forwards Maren Johansen and Alex Gogolin ended their collegiate careers at VCU Friday, Nov. 7.
The third seed Dayton Flyers, who hosted the 2014 women’s soccer championship, knocked out the second seed Rams in the semifinals, beating them 3-0.
In the 26th minute of the first half, Dayton freshman forward Alexis Kiehl rebounded her own shot off sophomore keeper Emma Kruse and passed to sophomore forward Meghan Blank, recording her third goal of the season. Blank put Dayton up 1-0 going into halftime. VCU took eight shots and got called for 10 fouls, while Dayton took eight shots and was called for five fouls. Despite VCU’s efforts on offense, they were unable to put the ball in the back of the net. In the last 10 minutes, Kruse and her line of defense were unable to keep the Flyers out of the 18. Dayton’s junior forward, Ashley Campbell, blocked a defensive clear and found herself with a wide open goal. Campbell was able to convert the opportunity to give Dayton a 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the Rams, Gogolin ended her collegiate career six minutes earlier than her fellow seniors, when she received a red card and was ejected for the remainder of the game. With less than four minutes to play, Kiehl found herself alone with Kruse and passed the ball to Campbell on the left side of the box. Campbell was able to beat a Ram to the pass to score her second goal of the night, making the final score 3-0.
With this shutout, Dayton advanced to the championship where they beat La Salle University 2-1.
The playoff match against the Flyers was the sequel to their first encounter days earlier. On Nov. 2, the Rams traveled to Ohio, but the match yielded a different outcome.
Each side played a heavily offensive game. Both teams took seven shots in the first half and VCU took three corner kicks. VCU got on the boards first when freshman forward Megan Dell scored in the 38th minute off a header crossed by junior forward Gabby Dyer, giving VCU the 1-0 lead going into the second half. The second half was just as offensive for both teams, especially for Dayton, outshooting VCU 10 to six.
In the 60th minute the Flyers tied up the game 1-1 when Campbell scored her at the time, her league-leading 13th goal of the season. When the whistle blew to end the second half, the score was tied at 1-1, sending the Rams into their fifth double overtime of the season.
Neither team was able to come away with a goal in the extra time, but both teams did come away with a red card in the 93rd minute. The score remained 1-1.
“Today was a hard-fought match between two solid teams,” said head coach Lindsey Vanderspiegel. “It was a game of momentum swings with both teams getting opportunities in front of goal.”
Before the Rams could advance to face Dayton in the semifinals, VCU would have to compete against cross-town rivals, University of Richmond, in the first round of playoffs Nov. 6. The last time both teams met was early October, and the game was called, resutling in a tie.
VCU started off slow in the first half, only taking one shot on goal, while Richmond took five. In the 13th minute, a cross found its way through VCU’s box and past multiple defenders, landing near senior midfielder Ashley Williams who easily put it away for the Spiders, towards the far post, to put them up 1-0. With such a slow start to the first half, VCU looked to pick up the momentum. Fifteen minutes into the second half, VCU found that third time’s the charm, when their third shot of the game got past Richmond’s freshman goal keeper Katie Brennan. Moore put the Rams on the board after junior midfielder Sharon Wojcik weaved a pass from near the goal line into the box, tying the game 1-1.
Desperate to avoid overtime, VCU’s offense did not back down. With just over a minute remaining in regulation, VCU junior forward Kailyn Slade fed Ernest a ball that she weaved through every Richmond defender and tested Brennan inside the box, burying the game winning goal to give the Rams a 2-1 victory and a spot in the semifinals.
“It was a huge comeback win,” Ernest said. “We knew Richmond wasn’t going to just let us have it, and the first half was tough. But we were able to pull together in the second half with the win. It was a massive effort from the entire team and we were able to battle until the end.”
Despite an unfortunate ending to the Rams’ season, the girls managed to finish with a record of 10-5-5, the second time in seven seasons that VCU has reached double-digit wins in a season. It was also the second time in three seasons that the Rams made the semifinals of their conference tournament.