Jacks Squander chance to advance

Marcus Traxler

Marcus TraxlerAssistant Sports Editor

On a chilly night, the Summit League Women’s Soccer Championship semifinal was exactly what one would expect between two rivals with identical conference records and similar styles of play.

However, on Nov. 5, North Dakota State topped the Jackrabbits in a shootout, with the Bison besting SDSU 4-3 on penalty kicks after tying in regulation at 1-1 and ending the Jacks season prematurely.

“It’s like the whole rest of our season,” SDSU head coach Lang Wedemeyer said. “Play very well, miss some of our chances, have opportunities to put the game away and it doesn’t happen for us and it bit us in the end.”

SDSU struck first when Kaitlin Justice captured a loose ball that deflected off NDSU goalie Kalani Bertsch. Justice launched a high shot that landed in the upper left corner of the net and the Jacks led 1-0 in the 22nd minute. SDSU finished the first half with strong defense to take the one-goal advantage to intermission.

“It was a great buildup, and we had good numbers in the box and KJ (Kaitlin Justice) was pretty cool and collected in finishing the rebound,” Wedemeyer said.

The Jackrabbits missed their best opportunity early in the second half when Kayla Braffet missed an open net after she beat Bertsch and shot the ball over the net. SDSU struggled to mount quality shots after that, which seemed to give the Bison the boost they needed.

In the 54th minute, Marissa Wolfgram took a free kick after an SDSU yellow card and found a cutting Michelle Gaffaney, who redirected the ball past Jackrabbit keeper Elisa Stamatakis to tie the game.

“It was a free kick, and obviously we tried to crash the net because you never know what will happen in front of the net, and luckily one of our players got to it,” NDSU head coach Pete Cuadrado said.

Both overtimes were played very conservatively, with neither team taking any chances on giving up the game-winning goal. Not a shot was fired in either of the 10-minute overtime periods, and the game remained knotted at 1-1 heading to the shootout.

SDSU led off the shootout with a make by Christa Nyblom but NDSU answered when Wolfgram nailed her attempt. The Bison took the lead after a Jackrabbit miss and Gaffaney found the back of the net. Round three saw both teams’ shooters come up empty when Bertsch and Stamatakis rose to the occasion to keep the shootout at 2-1.

JoLynn Janckila had a huge goal for the Jacks to temporarily tie the shootout until Quin Ryan put NDSU back in front at 3-2 after four rounds. Tory Schiltgen did her part to keep SDSU alive but Abbey Stratton dealt the final blow for the Bison when her shot beat Stamatakis to send NDSU to the finals.

“The girls we chose seemed to be the most consistent, and it’s just heartbreaking when you miss in that situation,” Wedemeyer said.

The Bison, on the other hand, went with their veterans.

“We’ve been keeping track of who has done well in training and we’ve got to go to our veterans,” Cuadrado said. “They are the people who got us here and they’ve got to carry us the rest of the way.”

The Jackrabbits outshot the Bison 15-8, but SDSU was called for offsides four times in the match, stopping a few scoring opportunities. SDSU also took more fouls than NDSU, holding the advantage at 11-5.

“I think we played a very good game, and we had our chances and the girls played very good soccer for the majority of the game,” Wedemeyer said. “We just didn’t finish.”

The Jacks hosted the tournament on its home field for the second consecutive year, and like last season, failed to win the four-team tournament.

“We’re just very proud of [our players] for their efforts, and I think they played a great game tonight and it’s a shame we won’t get to continue. It’s hard to end two years in a row on your home field and not advance,” Wedemeyer said.