DENVER, Colo. — In a battle between two top 25 teams with a berth in the RMAC postseason championship game and possible NCAA Division II Central Regional home field advantage on the line, No. 9 Colorado Mines (14-2-3 overall) defeated No. 23 Fort Lewis (14-2-4) 3-1 in a penalty kick shootout after the two teams played to a 1-1 draw through two overtimes today at the Regis Match Pitch.
The contest was officially recorded as a tie for both teams, but the Orediggers advanced to Sunday’s RMAC championship game. Mines will face tournament underdog Colorado Mesa (10-6-4), which defeated league regular season champion and No. 16 Regis 1-0 today.
“We came back to tie the game after them playing quite well against us in the first half and getting a goal up on us,” said fifth-year FLC head coach Damian Clarke. “We started to play again. In the second half we were absolutely fantastic, outshot them 10-4, and scored the goal to equalize. We just couldn’t find the winner. The kids were absolutely tremendous.”
Mines took a 1-0 lead with just 3:33 left in the first half when Kelsey Neal headed a pass by Megan Woodworth past FLC goalkeeper Amanda Raso.
Fort Lewis put pressure on throughout the second frame, ultimately leveling the score at 1-1 when Sara Egbom knocked in a rebound of Ashley Kniffen’s shot with 9:58 remaining. The goal was Egbom’s second of the season.
In the waning moments of regulation, CSM goalkeeper Penny Rogers saved a last-second shot by FLC’s Hayley Hollenga to force sudden-death overtime.
Mines had three shots in the first extra frame, but all were off target. FLC’s Emma Cannis was stopped by CSM goalkeeper Penny Rogers with 42 seconds left. Neither team managed a shot in the second 10-minute overtime.
The two teams were level through two rounds of penalties. Raso saved the opening attempt by Anna Evans, but Rogers matched her by stopping Megan Striedel. Megan Woodworth converted her chance, but Egbom equalized for FLC.
Mines took the lead in the shootout for good with their third shooter, Neal, who beat Raso. FLC’s Jane Barden was then denied by Penny Rogers.
Raso gave the Skyhawks some hope when she stuffed Kendra Bulawa on the Orediggers’ fourth chance, but FLC’s Nichole Schumacher failed to capitalize and was stopped by Rogers.
Heading into the fifth round of the shootout, the Orediggers needed just a successful kick to win, and Danielle Hering did just that, sending CSM to a championship date with Colorado Mesa.
“Credit to Mines, they’re a very difficult team to break down and hard to beat,” said Clarke. “Hats off to Mines.
“The penalty kicks are my fault,” said Clarke. “We didn’t practice them, and that’s not the kids’ fault. You need to practice those types of shots if you’re expected to make them in big games. I put that on my shoulders.”
Ironically, Fort Lewis was 3-0 in penalty kick shootouts all-time prior to today. FLC defeated Regis in 1999 and Metro State in 2009 in PKs RMAC title games and Metro State in the second round of the NCAA playoffs last year in a shootout.
While today’s game ended FLC’s RMAC title hopes, they’ll likely get the chance to avenge their defeat in the NCAA Division II playoffs as they entered this week’s play ranked third in the Central Region. The top six teams from each region will advance to the NCAA tournament.
Where the Skyhawks wind up is anybody’s guess. Four teams — Regis, Colorado Mines, Fort Lewis, and Minnesota State — have realistic chances to host first- and second-round games next weekend. The top two teams in the region will be awarded the honor of hosting.
“We’ll find out Monday,” said Clarke. “I’m sure we’ll be fighting for a regional title.”