|Posted November 4, 2007|
Packs title hopes fall short in RMAC Championship
DENVER, Colo. - On Sept. 21, the ThunderWolves marched into
Durango to take on Fort Lewis, seemingly as world-beating
underdogs, and made amazing plays to come away with a 1-0 victory,
the turning point in a season that saw the Pack finish second place
in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and eventually qualify
for the RMAC Championship.
Sunday, that story came full circle, facing the same Fort Lewis team that spawned a postseason run, the ThunderWolves were the victims of a near-perfect game and big plays, losing 2-0 in a tightly contested RMAC Championship game that wrecked the Pack's hopes for being selected for the Division II Women's Soccer Tournament.
In a defensive showdown, where the quality of chances was supremely more important than the quantity of chances, senior Robin Hayes looked to get the best chances of the first half. With 15:20 left in the half, Hayes broke free 10-yards in front of the goal with a good look at the right side of the net, only to send a low try rolling one foot wide of the goal.
A goal in that situation would have given the Pack a 1-0 lead despite falling short in the shots department for the half by a 6-2 margin.
But in championship games, ‘wouldas' and ‘couldas' are irrelevant.
At the 25:23 mark of the second half, Fort Lewis' Kim Sisneros turned the Pack's ‘coulda' on its head, beating Pack keeper Chrissy Mandarich to a ball in front of the net, followeing the collision with an open look at the goal that she promptly knocked in to give the Skyhawks the all-important 1-0 lead.
From there, the ThunderWolves could have easily folded, but instead they looked to grasp victory from the clutches of defeat.
"When they scored, we were planning on upping the attack anyway, and it was important that we didn't change that game plan," Pack coach Dave Morris said. "But I am proud of how we responded. They threw down the challenge and we answered the bell."
The Pack's time nearly came with eight minutes remaining when midfielder Brittany Hayes had two outstanding chances, the second of which seemed to confirm that it was simply Fort Lewis' day.
Hayes had a chance from the 15-yard-line that sailed just high, hitting the crossbar. On the ensuing corner kick, Hayes took a perfect feed from Marli Martin from the corner, and headed a ball in just five yard in front of Skyhawk keeper Bree Baker, who somehow reacted quickly enough, grasping the ball behind her body with a fingertip grab.
"We were that close to the story being Brittany Hayes coming in and being the hero," Morris said. "The only thing between us tying the score was three inches on the crossbar. We did the things we had to do, and that was the margin of victory. You just have to tip your hat to Fort Lewis and give them credit."
From there, the Pack seemed to have lost any momentum they may have gained off of their near-goals. Fort Lewis stuck the dagger through the Pack's hearts in almost circus fashion, knocking in an insurance goal with just nine second remaining on a breakaway by Hayley Hollenga, sending the ThunderWolves to a 2-0 defeat.
That final goal, combined with several upsets in the ThunderWolves' region, ruined the Pack's chances to qualify for the NCAA Division II Tournament.
"When they scored, the first thing I thought was ‘I sure want to practice on Tuesday,' and it's a shame that that can't happen," Morris said. "We've had a real good time playing together and being a team, and it's a shame to see that end. But, we've played up to the absolute edge of our ability this season, and as a coach, you can't ask for anything more than that."
The ThunderWolves ended their season with a 14-6-1 record, the best mark in school history. Its trip to the RMAC Championship game was only its second in school history. The ThunderWolves reached the championship game in 2001, as well.