ASHLAND, Ohio – Before the season, the AU women's soccer team had a goal of playing in the GLIAC Tournament. On Tuesday (Nov. 1), the Eagles scored a goal in the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal and it stood up for their first-ever conference tournament win.
Freshman Lexi Gruich (Akron, Ohio/Copley) scored in the 54th minute and sophomore goalkeeper Rebecca Plescia (Parma, Ohio/Padua) ran her scoreless streak to 283 minutes in AU's 1-0 win over visiting Ferris State.
"I thought in the first half we had the jitters," said AU head coach Glenn Francis. "In the second half, we settled down, stuck in and got the goal. We didn't play not to lose. When you play to lose, you get tight."
The Bulldogs (7-9-3) had an 8-1 advantage in shots in the first half, but neither team had an outstanding chance on goal. Plescia made three saves in the half and had none in the second as FSU did not put a shot on goal in the final 45 minutes.
The Eagles (9-7-3) won a majority of the balls in the midfield and were able to take control of possession after halftime.
In the 54th minute, AU scored the lone goal in the game. Freshman Kathleen Demaree (Canal Fulton, Ohio/Northwest) gained control of the ball and held it up on the left side of the penalty area. Freshman Haley Frick (Brunswick, Ohio) and Gruich made runs down the middle in the box. Gruich received the ball, took a touch past her defender, and scored into the left side of the goal from 10 yards.
"Outside of Rebecca (Plescia), [Gruich] has been our most consistent player. She has composure finishing the ball and likes to go forward. She was composed, calm, cool and collected and slotted it in," said Francis.
After the Eagles took the lead, they did not just fall into a defensive shell. They continued to possess the ball and earned a couple corner kicks in the second half.
Back on Sept. 23, the Eagles lost to Ferris State, 3-0, at Ferguson Field. In that game, the teams were relatively even, despite the final score. The Bulldogs had just a 12-10 advantage in shots in that game, but capitalized three times on their opportunities.
In this game, it was the Eagles who were able to force the game their way.
"It was a much better effort," said Francis, who noted earlier in the week that Ferris State was one of the three teams to beat the Eagles at Ferguson Field.
The Eagles were outstanding on the defensive end, allowing 11 shots, but only three came on goal. Plescia – who earned GLIAC Player of the Week honors last week – picked up her second straight shutout and her sixth of the season.
The third-seeded Eagles will now travel to Grand Valley State on Friday (Nov. 4) to take on second-seeded Ohio Dominican. That game will kick off at 4:30 p.m. from Allendale, Mich. The other semifinal pits fifth-seeded Tiffin against the Lakers, who are ranked third in the nation. Tiffin toppled host Northern Michigan, 3-0, in the tournament's other quarterfinal on Tuesday.
The Panthers beat the Eagles twice this season. ODU won, 2-0, in Columbus on Sept. 16 and then clipped AU, 1-0, in overtime on Oct. 20.
"Another nailbiter," Francis responded when asked what he expected from the game. "We're playing with house money, anything is possible. That's why you play the game, the ball is round."