FARGO, N.D. – 2017 Tournament MVP Angelica Pacheco (Taos, N.M.) answered an 83rd minute North Dakota State equalizer with an 85th-minute game-winning goal to send the University of Denver women’s soccer team to its first Summit League Tournament title since 2013 after a 2-1 win over the host Bison on Saturday afternoon at Dacotah Field.
Saturday’s Summit League Tournament championship is the program’s ninth conference title since turning Division I in 1998 (9-1-2), and its first since 2013. The league title is also the Pioneers second in the Summit League. Denver’s NCAA Tournament berth will be its 10th in the Division I era, all under 26th-year head coach Jeff Hooker.
“We responded to their goal very well,” Hooker said. “We went right back to being aggressive, created a corner and then took advantage of a 2v2 in our attack. Angelica was aggressive, won the ball and did a nice job of touching it around the keeper and calmly finishing it.
“This one (league title) means a heck of a lot. After the last couple of years, we put a process in place in the spring and the summer called “The Page”, and to see this team go through that process and achieve their goal, I’m just so proud of them. To go through a really tough non-conference schedule like we did, the team could have gotten away from that and not believed. To go through our entire league schedule and only be trailing in regulation one time all season, at Fort Wayne which is a match we won, is a testament to this team for their hard work. I think by them trusting in the process that process sometimes comes back and rewards you like it did today.”
Summit League Offensive Player of the Year Jessie Dancy (Park City, Utah) scored her 14th goal of the season to open the scoring. Freshman winger Meg Halvorson (Englewood, Colo.) setup the Denver breakthrough in the 32nd minute to put the Pioneers in-front. Halvorson received a pass in the right channel from Riley Welch (Littleton, Colo.), and made a run inside to the top of the D, before playing a sharp cross on the ground to the feet of Dancy who struck her 14th goal of the season into the far post, finding the bottom right corner.
“The first goal we scored was really nice,” Hooker said. “A lot of little things went to putting everyone in the right position to execute that piece of play. Riley [Welch] was the catalyst for that goal, getting the ball across the field into open space. All the touches after that were absolutely perfect, and it was a pretty goal, perfect for this occasion. It was almost like a pattern you would do in practice in the build-up.”
Dancy’s goal rewarded Denver for having a majority of the possession in the first half and the shots were tied at 3-3 heading into the intermission.
North Dakota State put the pressure on in search of the equalizer in the second half, and were rewarded when the Bison got free behind Denver’s backline, and sophomore keeper Brittany Wilson (Littleton, Colo.) tripped up the striker in the box in the 83rd minute. Roxy Roemer sent Wilson the wrong way on the resulting spot kick, and the Bison found themselves level with 7:24 to play.
“Mark [Cook] is a great coach, so we knew they would come up with something different in the second half,” Hooker said. “They put a little more pressure on us than we could handle, and we wilted a bit to be honest. We stopped doing the little things and they were able to break us down and get the penalty.”
The Pioneers went right back on the front foot following the equalizer. Dancy earned Denver a corner off the kickoff which was cleared away, but 2:12 following the equalizer Pacheco pressured the Bison centerbacks, won the ball, touched it around NDSU goalkeeper Monica Polgar and calmly placed the game-winner into the center of the empty net to put the Pioneers back in-front.
· Anna Gornell, Oral Roberts
· Caroline Frank, Oral Roberts
· Jennie Scislow, South Dakota State
· Julia Lam, South Dakota State
· Roxy Roemer, North Dakota State
· Mallory Fenske, North Dakota State
· Anna Reinholz, North Dakota State
· Jessie Dancy, Denver
· Brittany Wilson, Denver
· Brittney Lewis, Denver
· MVP – Angelica Pacheco, Denver
UP NEXT: Denver will learn its NCAA Tournament draw during the 2017 NCAA Women’s Soccer Selection Show, set to be broadcast live on NCAA.com Monday at 2:30 p.m. MT.