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After taking a week-long break between regular season and tournament play, the Weber State University women’s soccer team was back in action on Thursday afternoon against the second-place Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks in the first semifinal game of the Big Sky Tournament in Portland, Ore.
The Wildcats came away victorious with a convincing 3-0 win over the Lumberjacks, advancing them into the Big Sky Championship on Saturday afternoon for the second time in three years.
It was a battle of the defenses in the first half, as few shots were coming from both teams. WSU’s first goal becomes more impressive with the fact that the Wildcats had just four shots, two of which were on goal. NAU only had three shots on goal, none of which were on frame.
The Wildcats really didn’t look like themselves offensively in the first 45 minutes of play. Passes were not as clean as this team has executed in the past. Many passes were stolen away, or were too far ahead of the receiving player, resulting in many avoidable turnovers.
“We didn’t possess the ball well in that first half,” said WSU head coach Tim Crompton. “It almost felt like we were passing the ball to (NAU) as if they were on our team.”
However, WSU’s defense made up for the lack of offensive execution, holding NAU to just three shots in the first half, none of which were on goal.
One of those shots came in the 15th minute off of a free kick just outside WSU’s box, but the shot by Savanna Berry was high and to the left.
Just a minute later, WSU thought it had a goal with a big boot up to the goal that was tapped in, but Mackenzie Day was a yard offsides, and the goal didn’t count.
WSU finally caught a break in the 33rd minute as Riley Hanson scored after the ball bounced around in the aftermath of a corner kick, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 lead before heading into the half.
“After that first goal, I think our girls really changed the way they were playing,” Crompton said. “You could see the difference just in their body language. That kind of stuff changes things and can really make you play better.”
And play better they did.
WSU wasted no time heading into the second half, with Stacy Bair scoring just two minutes in off of a beautiful volley, giving the Wildcats a little more cushion with a 2-0 lead.
Refusing to lie down, NAU showed more assertiveness and really tried to get back in the game, but it was all for naught.
The final blow came from Day in the 68th minute as she broke through the last wall of defenders and just drilled the ball into the back of the net to put the proverbial last nail in the coffin for the Lumberjacks and their season.
“Once you get to three goals, you feel more comfortable,” said defender Brecken Holbrook.
NAU had some opportunities to avoid the shutout, but couldn’t get it done.
The Wildcats will now play in the Big Sky Championship game on Saturday at 4 p.m. against the tournament-hosting team, Portland State University.
“No matter who we play, as long as we play the way we know we’re supposed to, we’ll be golden,” said midfielder Chansi Crompton.
During the regular season, the Vikings defeated the Wildcats 3-1 in Ogden, in a game that is not to be judged by the score. While it appeared to be a blowout, WSU played well, but a controversial penalty kick and some easy goals resulted in WSU losing to the Vikings, who are undefeated in conference play.
The championship match can be watched live on WatchBigSky.com.