By Carter Chapley
St. Louis, MO
For just the fourth time in program history, the Saint Louis University Billikens women’s soccer team is headed to the NCAA tournament. The Bills earned the A-10 automatic bid after finishing a 3-1 victory over the #2 seeded George Washington Colonials.
The NCAA bid marks the second time in two years the program has qualified for the national tournament, both times qualifying as the A-10 champion.
The Billikens have made a habit of scoring early and scoring often in their A-10 championship run. SLU has outscored its opponents by 29 to this point in conference play, and by 6 in the conference tournament alone.
Today was no different.
Just over 5 minutes after kickoff in the championship game hosted on SLU campus at Hermann Stadium, the Billiken pressure proved too much to handle as opposing George Washington defender pulled down Alyssa Seitzer inside the box and the referee point towards the spot for a penalty kick.
Hannah Friedrich took the shot for the Bills and could not be denied, going into the lower-left third away from the diving keeper.
“As soon as I saw Aly go down, I went looking around for Hannah” Billiken forward and A-10 tournament Most Outstanding Player Courtney Reimer said after the game “She’s just such a clinical finisher, I knew she would put it away.”
It was less than three minutes later that luck would shine on the Billikens again, as after a crossing attempt in the 8th minute, the Colonials were flagged for a handball, and again, SLU was headed to the penalty spot. Alli Klug took the try and snuck the shot just between the keeper’s outstretched hand and the lower right post, putting the Billikens up 2-0.
The all-out attack was not yet finished as 10 minutes later; the Bills were back in the George Washington box pressuring yet again. But this time, it was not a penalty shot that led to the third Billikens goal, a perfect pass from forward Hannah Friedrich found the foot of Emily Groark who would not be denied, scoring her first goal as a Billiken.
The Groark goal marked the 15th Billiken to find the back of the net this season, the combination of Friedrich and Groark also marked the 40th combination of players to match up for a goal and an assist on just 44 assisted goals this season.
That was all the Billikens would need to win their 4th A-10 tournament in program history. The Billiken pressure never relented, allowing only a single goal from a specular strike on the edge of the box from Rachel Sorkenn to bring GW to within 2 in the 83rd minute.
After the game, five Billikens were recognized as part of the All-Tournament team. Hannah Friedrich, Mary Niehaus, Emma Farley, Courtney Reimer, and Alli Klug were all recognized. Courtney Reimer was also named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
The win adds to a list of school records for the Billikens to mark on of the greatest runs in SLU sports history. The Billikens set their unbeaten streak record going 16 games without a loss, tied the single season record for home wins with 11, and in their last 43 games at Hermann Stadium the Billikens are 37-1-5.
The Billikens now wait to see their fate in the NCAA tournament, with the selection show taking place Monday afternoon. SLU has submitted a bid to host their first-round matchup, but according to an official, it is unlikely Billikens will be seeded high enough to garner that right. Though it is not impossible, Saint Louis sits at 44th in the RPI and considering the dominance that the Billikens have shown over the last two seasons, some believe the committee may lean SLU’s way in awarding them a home NCAA tournament game.
The Billikens don’t know who they’ll face next, but Head Coach Katie Shields feels her team is more prepared this year, than they were last season to succeed in the national tournament, “This group has that experience under their belt, they know what it takes to get to a conference tournament final, they know what it takes to play in an NCAA tournament game”.