The Valpo women’s soccer team closed out the regular season in style Friday afternoon on Brown Field, scoring twice less than a half-hour into the match and adding another insurance tally in the second half to complete a 3-0 triumph over UNI. With the win, Valpo secured a berth in the MVC Tournament and will be the tournament’s fifth seed, traveling to take on Drake Monday night in first-round action.
How It Happened
- Valpo grabbed the lead in the 13th minute Friday. Freshman Cierra Welch (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) made a run down the left-hand side, using her speed to get in position to cross the ball along the ground. In the box to connect on the other end was junior Lauren Torhorst (Waterford, Wis./Waterford Union), who clipped the cross inside the far post for the opening tally.
- Freshman goalkeeper Georgia Henkel (Houston, Texas/Stratford) made a spectacular leaping save to keep it a 1-0 scoreline in the 19th minute, pushing away a high effort from UNI’s Megan Benmore.
- Valpo doubled its advantage in the 26th minute, and again it was Welch setting things up. This time, the rookie took a corner kick into the center of the box, where fellow freshman Natalie Graf (Williamsburg, Mich./St. Francis) got up and got her head on the ball. UNI goalkeeper Anna Kaiser got a hand on Graf’s header, but was unable to push it wide, as it trickled inside the left-hand post to give Valpo the 2-0 edge.
- Valpo then got a bit of help from the crossbar on the goal on the west end to maintain the two-goal lead, as twice UNI’s Sydney Hayden rang a shot off the bar – in the 27th and 30th
- Valpo all but put the game away in the 58th The third goal was created by freshman Kiley Dugan (Irwin, Pa./Penn-Trafford), who made a run down the left, got to the end line, and then used a series of slick moves to evade a pair of UNI defenders and force the Panthers’ goalkeeper to come off her line to cut down the angle. With the keeper out of position, Dugan knocked a pass into the box for Torhorst, who calmly finished to complete her brace and make it 3-0 Valpo.
- Valpo got one last assist from the crossbar in the 68th minute when the Panthers’ Jamie Althiser knocked a shot off the top of the goal frame. UNI had three shots in the final 12 minutes of the match, but none of them were on frame, as Valpo completed the clean sheet and clinched a tournament berth.
Inside the Match
- With the win, Valpo leapfrogged up the MVC standings to finish the regular season alone in fifth place with six points.
- Valpo finished two spots ahead of its preseason seventh-place projection and has out-performed the preseason poll in each of its three seasons in the Valley.
- Friday’s win came one day later than originally scheduled, as the fixture was set for Thursday at 4 p.m. before snow and field conditions caused the match’s postponement. Kickoff was originally set for noon on Friday, but the start time was pushed back one hour to allow for ample time to clear the snow from the surface.
- With Friday’s win, Valpo ended the season with consecutive wins at home on Brown Field.
- Torhorst bagged the match-winner on Friday as part of her second two-goal effort in MVC play. All five of Torhorst’s goals this year came in conference action, as the junior closed the regular season second in the conference in goals in MVC-only play.
- Welch registered a two-assist game for the first time in her career, ending conference play with a team-high three helpers. It was Valpo’s first multi-assist game since Ali Quillen delivered a pair of assists in last season’s finale.
- Graf picked up the second goal of her freshman campaign with her 26th-minute tally, while Dugan’s assist was her first in a Valpo uniform.
Thoughts From Coach Marovich
“I’m super proud of this group today. We came out and were on the front foot from the start of the match. We were able to get the ball in front of the goal, and then were clinical in our finishing.”
“Games like these, where there’s a lot on the line, can be interesting when you have a super-young team who have to go out and handle the emotion and the stress of the situation. I thought our players did a really good job handling all those things, and then to go up 2-0 in the first half is huge for the nerves.”
“I liked the way we saw the game out – we held our shape and kept our organization well, and then clipped a third goal, which really made the mountain tough to climb for UNI.”
“The game is always looking for somebody to be special in critical moments, and Lauren Torhorst has been that for us in league play, scoring five goals. She got rewarded for her work again today twice. Beyond her, the work everybody else did today creating opportunities and getting the ball into the final third was tremendous.”
“We’ve won two of our last three to end the regular season in fifth place as we hit the road for the conference tournament. This season has been about growth and development throughout, and now our group is being rewarded for their perseverance, their resiliency and their character. I’m very happy for and proud of our players to qualify as the fifth seed.”
Valpo (2-14-1, 2-5-0 MVC) opens MVC Tournament play as the fifth seed and will play at fourth-seeded Drake on Monday night at 7 p.m. The match can be seen live on ESPN+.