By Cody Shook, Sports Editor
The West Liberty University women’s soccer team made the playoffs for the first time in school history. The soccer program has been around for only five years, with the inaugural season coming in 2012; they finished the season with a 2-15 record.
Their first postseason game was played on Nov. 2 against the number one seed and regular-season champion, Notre Dame (Ohio). Kickoff was set for a 3 p.m. start, and for the results, go to hilltoppersports.com.
When the Hilltoppers and Falcons faced off in their first meeting of the year in South Euclid, Ohio the game ended in a 0-0 tie. The Falcons had a 23-10 advantage in total shots, but managed to put only 10 of them on frame with Allie Warsaw posting 10 saves to earn the shutout.
In their second meeting of the season, the game was played at the West Liberty Soccer Complex, and Notre Dame came away with a 2-0 victory. That loss for the Hilltoppers snapped an eight game unbeaten streak and Notre Dame finished the afternoon with a 17-4 edge in shots and a 6-0 advantage in corners. Hilltopper keeper Lauren Hartnell had seven saves with Falcon net minder Sam Shoemaker being charted with a pair of stops.
The Notre Dame Falcons finished the regular season with a 13-1-2 conference record and a 6-1-1 record at home. They are led by their leading goal scorers Katarina Doncevic with eight and Alexis Manoa with five goals and seven assists. Their starting goaltender Samantha Shoemaker has played in and started all of this seasons games, and she has seven shutouts. Her save percentage is .859 and she has only given up 10 goals all season. The Falcons are currently on a 10-game winning streak, and they have not lost a game since Sept. 25.
The Hilltoppers come into the game with a regular season record of 6-5-5 in conference play and 2-5-3 in away games. West Liberty’s leading scorers are true freshman Kaelyn Oskin with six goals and junior striker Thanna Oddo with five goals.
One of the tougher decisions head coach Barry Christmas will have to make is which goaltender is going to start the big game because throughout the season, the two goalies Allie Warsaw and Lauren Hartnell have switched off every game and have both done a great job.
When asked about how it feels to make the playoffs for the first time in school history, junior strike Thanna Oddo said, “It’s an incredible feeling to be on the first team to make the playoffs. Our team has worked extremely hard to get here and I couldn’t be more proud of us. It really is an indescribable feeling. We are proving that we are a very dangerous team and being a younger program than most in the conference, we want to show everybody that are a threat in every game we play.”
When asked about their struggles in road games this season, Oddo said, “Playing away is always a challenge but we have gotten many positive results on the road. If we play with intensity and play our game, it’s going to be a good game.”
“Clinching the final playoff spot and breaking the school record has been on the players’ minds and it’s been a lot of added pressure to the players and we kind of crawled to the finish line,” Christmas said. He has told his players that it’s exciting to have that added pressure because there are only four teams playing in the playoffs and they are one of them. When asked about the importance of this game and how he’s going to make sure his players bring it on game day, Christmas said, “There are two girls on the team that this could potentially be their last game, so for me we are trying to impress upon the players that you’re playing for something bigger than yourself and there have been girls that have been in this locker room that have graduated and haven’t had this opportunity.”
He wants to make sure that all of his players leave everything they’ve got out on the field and not have any regrets when it’s all over.
“This is very big for our program to make the playoffs for the first time and now that will help us get better recruits to make the team even better moving forward and we think this is the start of a snowball effect, it’s going to blossom and we will keep progressing,” Christmas said.
West Liberty and Notre Dame (Ohio) played on Wednesday at 3 p.m., in South Euclid Ohio. For game results and more playoff information, please log onto hilltoppersports.com.
Be sure to grab next week’s issue of the Trumpet for a season recap and more playoff coverage.
Photo provided by Hilltoppersports