Women clinch 2nd straight NCAA bid

Sean Maloney

Forward Rylee Engelland grapples with a UW-Whitewater defender in the Titans’ Nov. 7 match against the Warhawks.
[/media-credit] Forward Rylee Engelland grapples with a UW-Whitewater defender in the Titans’ Nov. 7 match against the Warhawks.

The UW Oshkosh women’s soccer team earned an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament after defeating UW-Eau Claire in the semifinals of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament, despite falling in the championship game against UW-Whitewater on Nov. 7. Head coach Erin Coppernoll said she was impressed with her team’s ability to handle the bye in the conference tournament and not come out slow. “When you get that bye, you always want to get to the championship match,” Coppernoll said. “You sometimes can overlook that semifinal game, but I thought we did a good job of not doing that.” Coppernoll said she thought they played a better soccer game against Whitewater than in its previous matchup on Oct. 28, but missed a few chances against the Warhawks that could have possibly given them the victory. “I thought it was a better 90 minutes of soccer from us this time around,” Coppernoll said. “We had a couple chances but it was an inch off here and there.” Senior Courtney Leister said trying to keep the ball in its possession was one of their game plans going into Saturday’s championship match. “I think we did well possession-wise, better than we have been,” Leister said. “We really tried to focus on that because we knew if we kept possession they wouldn’t be able to do much.” The Warhawks were able to score in the 50th minute and Leister said that was the result of a key defensive breakdown. “Our defensive breakdowns don’t happen often,” Leister said. “But when they do, they can sometimes be bad.” Junior Rachel Elliott said the team played more defensively during the WIAC tournament, but they’ll need to switch to offense heading into the NCAA tournament. “We need to focus more on the offensive half of things, we were very defensive this weekend,” Elliott said. “Once we were up on Thursday [against Eau-Claire] we knew that all we had to do was play defense, but again on Saturday we didn’t really have an offense.” Coppernoll said she thinks the team’s trip to the NCAA tournament last year will help this year’s team as well in advancing past round one. “No Titans women’s soccer team has won a game in the NCAA tournament,” Coppernoll said. “I think the experience we had last year of falling short in overtime will have a lot of motivation for this group of young ladies.” Elliott said she is looking forward to their first round matchup against Depauw, but not having seen or played the team could be a challenge. “I think it’ll be interesting because we don’t really know anything about each other,” Elliott said. “We get to go in and play our best and see what they do.” Leister said she is looking forward to the environment the NCAA tournament brings. “The most exciting thing is the atmosphere,” Leister said. “It’s a totally different atmosphere being in the NCAA tournament.” The Titans will take on Depauw University Friday, Nov. 13 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.