MILWAUKEE – Goals by Haley Johnson and Mackenzie Schill provided the difference to send the Milwaukee women's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Oakland Thursday night at Engelmann Stadium.
The Panthers (16-1-1) picked up the much-deserved victory over the Golden Grizzles (7-8-3) in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals after carrying nearly 60 percent of possession and a 16-to-4 advantage in shots on the evening. The win puts them into the Horizon League Tournament Championship for the fourth consecutive season.
"We created some chances in the first half and didn't put them away," head coach Troy Fabiano said. "We felt we were dangerous but just needed to finish our opportunities. Then we get a second goal – and we have been pretty good at putting teams away after that – but it seemed like the last 5 to 10 minutes we got rattled. At this point in the season, you are happy to move on and that's the important thing."
The game could have easily been a route, with Milwaukee coming close to numerous goal opportunities in the first half. Oakland's Jaimie Leas continued to come up big, making key stops on Schill in the fourth minute, Natalie Auble on a blast from the top of the 18 in the 35th minute and again on a close-range header from McKaela Schmelzer in the 37th minute off a corner kick.
Schill looked to also have a second goal in the 33rd minute after settling the ball in front. Her shot was headed towards open net and was past the keeper, only to be cleared off the line by an OU defender.
MKE took just a 1-0 lead into the locker room, with Schill converting nicely after getting sprung by Rachel Phillpotts, netting her seventh of the campaign at the 22:10 mark. At the break, the Panthers had 10 of the 11 shots and all nine of the corner kicks to that point, but just the lead of the single goal.
Milwaukee kept up the pressure and finally found that vital second goal. Taylor Hattori fed Schill on the wing. After moving towards the endline, Schill picked up her fifth assist of the season when her centering pass found Johnson alone in front for her eighth of the year at the 62:57 mark.
Oakland did not give up, eventually cutting the lead in half in the 75th minute. The score was the first allowed by Elaina LaMacchia in 1,070:12, a consecutive-scoreless minutes streak that not only goes down as a league and program record, but also as the sixth-longest of its kind in NCAA Division I history.
Despite things getting a little chaotic at the end, LaMacchia punched away an 89th-minute corner kick and the following corner was sent wide. The Panthers then controlled enough possession with long balls to run out the clock.
The 16-to-4 shot advantage included an 11-to-3 count in shots on goal. Schill led the way with a game-high six. LaMacchia finished with two saves to improve to 12-0-1 on the season.
Up next is the title game, with Saturday's winner heading to the NCAA Tournament next week. The Panthers will take on No. 2 UIC, which advanced with a 1-0 victory in double-overtime against Northern Kentucky. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.