Women’s soccer advances to sectional round of NCAA tournament after two wins

Four Spartan athletes and coaching staff earn UAA awards


Abby DeCicco/The Observer

The team celebrates after advancing to the next round in the NCAA tournament, ready to host UChicago for the sectional semifinals.

Alyssa Zimmerman, Puneet Bansal, Contributing Writer, Sports Editor

This weekend, the women’s soccer team made history for Case Western Reserve University after emerging victorious from the first two rounds of the NCAA DIII tournament. Not only was this the third time that the program has ever won a postseason game, but this is also the furthest the team has ever advanced. In total, the Spartans now hold a 3-1-1 record over the course of all of their postseason appearances, which they hope to improve as they move on to the sectional semifinals.

The first game against Chatham University proved a strong start for the tournament as the Spartans won 5-0 on home turf.

After an aggressive start to the game with multiple fouls on both sides, the Spartans scored their first goal around 35 minutes into the match. Fourth-year midfielder Anika Washburn shot a goal from outside the 18-yard box after receiving a pass from fourth-year forward Christina Hickson, which found the back of the net.This was the 30th goal of Washburn’s career, tying former Spartan athlete Sandra Oh’s career program record.  

Their second goal came in the final minutes of the first half. First-year midfielder Sydney Schenk sent a pass to fourth-year defender Greta Lazzara in the center of the box. Lazzara slid the shot past Chatham’s goalkeeper and pushed the Spartan lead to 2-0 to close the half with her second goal of the season. 

The second half started strong with a goal from the third-year forward Helina VanBibber after only four minutes. Third-year Aniya Hartzler sent a free kick into the box, allowing VanBibber to head it into the goal. 

Hickson dominated the final ten minutes of the match, scoring two goals in a span of seven minutes. Her first goal came in the 82nd minute after kicking the ball over the goalkeeper’s head to get the score. Her second goal came in the final minute off of an assist from Washburn to secure the final score of 5-0. 

Washburn’s assist earned her the 74th point of her career, tying Oh’s career program record for points. Additionally, Washburn’s nine assists on the year are tied for second most in a season in program history, standing only one away from tying record-setter Hallie Graor’s 10 in 1999. 

The defense forced their 12th shutout of the season, with second-year goalkeeper Maggie Storti earning her 15th win of the season and lowering her goals against average to 0.46. Storti recorded one save while second-year goalkeeper Sydney Stone saved another two shots during the game. 

Schenk shared her thoughts on the game. “The first game was special for a lot of us because it was most of the team’s first NCAA tournament game,” she explained. 

The Spartans’ second tournament game, on Saturday against the Ohio Northern University Polar Bears, also concluded with a strong 2-0 win for the Spartans. 

It was clear that the Spartans had planned on playing more offensively this game, as they attempted to score at every opportunity. The two goals were scored towards the middle of each half, and the Spartans were able to maintain their offensive positions while ONU was held scoreless due to the Spartans’ suffocating defense.

In the 25th minute, Hartzler sent a soaring pass to fourth-year defender Kat Rebele in the middle of the box, which Rebele then headed into the net to put the Spartans on the board with a 1-0 lead. The goal was Rebele’s first of the season.

The Spartans struck again in the second half when Washburn passed the ball to Hartzler in the middle of the box. Hartzler sent it to first-year forward Carolyn Koutures, who slid the ball into the low corner for the Spartans’ second goal of the game and her second of the season.

Washburn’s assist marked her 75th career point, passing Oh for the program record for most points in a season. Her 10th assist of the season also tied the program record for assists in a campaign. The team has also set a new program record for goals in a season with 48 after earning its 13th straight non-conference win.

The Spartans forced yet another shutout, their 13th of the season. Storti’s stalwart play continued as she saved three shots and recorded her 10th shutout, tying her for most in a single season in Spartan history. 

Schenk explained that “The second game was a different challenge because we had already played ONU this season. We knew they were going to play us more defensively, so we had to do a better job moving the ball and combining in the final third. We kept possession for a majority of the game and created a lot of chances and ultimately finished two of them.” 

The team’s record-breaking play was recognized by the UAA conference. Washburn was named the 2021 UAA Offensive Player of the Year. Washburn and Lazzara were selected for the All-UAA First Team, Hickson was named to the second-team and Storti was an honorable mention selection. 

Moreover, the Spartan coaching staff, which includes head coach Jen Simonetti and assistant coaches Josh Kay, Kaleigh Piscioneri, Natalie Sedor, Jenna Ruccolo and Taylor Bova, were awarded the UAA Coaching Staff of the Year. The selection marks the fifth time the coaching staff has earned this honor, with the last time being 2011.  

Rebele was selected as the Spartan Club Athlete of the Week for her tremendous play, which led the defense to two straight shutouts to open the NCAA tournament.

When the 16-1-2 Spartans play in the sectional round of the championship against the University of Chicago, they plan on keeping their spirits high and collaborating as a team to come together and win.

  “I am very proud of this team,” Schenk exclaimed about her squad. Commenting further on the upcoming week’s game, Schenk said, “Coach Jen tells us all of the time how important it is to be adaptable and this team is that! We have overcome a variety of obstacles this season and it is so satisfying to see the success that comes from staying true to our strengths as a team. Going into this weekend, we need to focus on being sharp and finishing our opportunities, as well as having high intensity on defense.”

CWRU is slated to host the University of Chicago this Saturday, Nov. 20, on DiSanto Field at 1:30 p.m. for the sectional semifinals.