The Ashland University women's soccer team scored three times in the second half on Tuesday (Oct. 31) and did not allow a shot on goal as the No. 2-seed Eagles shut out No. 7-seed Northern Michigan in the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal, 3-0, at Ferguson Field.
The Eagles (12-5-1) will now play the winner of the Ferris State-Saginaw Valley State on Friday (Nov. 3) in the tournament semifinal, which will be played at Grand Valley State should the Lakers advance against Michigan Tech. If top-seeded GVSU does not advance, the GLIAC final four will be played at Ferguson Field.
On Tuesday, the Eagles were able to possess the ball for great stretches of the game, but going against a strong wind in the first half, were not able to score in the first 45 minutes. Meanwhile, the AU midfield and defense kept any threat away from its own goal, giving up just one shot in the first half.
"I thought we did a nice job of not getting into their style and playing our style of keeping the ball," said fifth-year head coach Danny Krispinsky. "Our movement off the ball was really good and I thought sooner or later we were going to get the breakthrough."
As soon as the Eagles got the wind at their backs in the second half, the goals started to come. The first came in the 47th minute as senior Bridget McEldowney sent in a long cross into the box that deflected down to senior Kelsey McKernan, who got just enough on her shot to get it past NMU keeper Brianna Frontuto. It was McKernan's fourth goal and McEldowney's second assist of the season.
Ashland doubled its lead in the 56th minute as McKernan took a ball down to the end line and hit a low cross that Frontuto deflected to senior Morgan Bittengle. AU's leading scorer fired a rocket into a nearly empty net for her 16th goal of the season. She now has nine goals in her last five games and has scored a goal in each of her last seven games. McKernan has a GLIAC-high eight assists.
The Eagles carried that 2-0 lead into the final minutes when they tacked on their final goal. AU took advantage of an NMU turnover in the midfield and Bittengle connected with junior Sam Malleo, who made a run down the right side and had her shot deflect slightly off an NMU defender and into the net for her first career goal. It was also Bittengle's first assist of the season.
"They're a difficult team to play against from an attacking standpoint because they put so many numbers behind the ball and there's not as much space to connect," said Krispinsky.
The Eagles were never threatened in the back as freshman Abby Lampe did not need to make a save in the game. Ashland out-shot Northern Michigan, 17-2, as the AU midfield and defense continuously won balls in the air and did not allow the Wildcats (4-11-2) the space to operate and connect passes.
The Eagles, who have won their last three games by a combined 11-1 margin, will now go to their fourth conference semifinal game in five years under Krispinsky.