Two second half goals lifted Western Illinois to s 3-2 upset victory over Mid-Continent Conference regular season champion Valparaiso on a cold, overcast Thursday morning in Rochester, Mich.
With the loss, the top-seeded Crusaders ended their best season in school history with a 12-4-3 record. The fourth-seeded Westerwinds advance to Saturday's championship.
Western Illinois found the scoreboard first with 16:05 to play in the opening half. Ashley Hoch fired a shot off of the crossbar and Misako Inaba knocked in the rebound.
Valpo responded just 33 seconds later. Laura Murphy (Aurora, Ill./Waubonsie Valley H.S.) sent a long lead pass down the left sideline to Jessie White (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S.). The freshman went far post to tie the match at one with her third goal of the year. For Murphy, it was her school record-tying sixth assist of the season.
The Crusaders took the lead late in the first half. Ani Michl (Deerfield, Ill./Stevenson H.S.) fired home a blast from the top of the box for her first collegiate goal. The play was set up after Western Illinois (11-7) tried to clear following a Valpo corner kick opportunity and the Brown and Gold took a 2-1 advantage into the break.
As the second half began, the snow began to fall at the OU Soccer Field.
Hoch tied the match at two just 3:44 into the second half on a shot from 20 yards out right-side. With the goal, Western Illinois became just the second team all season to score more than one goal in a match against the Brown and Gold.
Caitlin Barrett put the Westerwinds on top with 36:22 left in the match scoring from the middle of the box following a feed from Kim Schuneman which beat Valpo keeper Erin Murray (Pleasanton, Calif./Amador Valley H.S.) to her left.
Sarah Jewell (Kansas City, Mo./Park Hill H.S.) had a chance to tie the match with 18 minutes remaining, firing a shot from 12 yards out, but Westerwind goalkeeper Samantha Clark made a diving save. Two minutes later, the Crusaders had another opportunity following a corner kick, but Tyke came up big again.
Murray made three saves for the Crusaders while Clark had four stops for Western Illinois. The Westerwinds outshot Valpo 9-7 for the match.