After avoiding overtime throughout the regular season and Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament, the Western Washington University Women's Soccer team is finding extra time to its liking during West Regional of the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
For the second time in three days, the Vikings emerged from overtime with a 2-1 victory and an opportunity to extend their season, as forward Kristin Maris scored in the 103rd minute to lift No. 23 WWU to an upset of No. 10 Sonoma State in the regional semifinal on Sunday, Nov. 11, at Rohnert Park, Calif.
Sunday's win sends Western (19-3) to the regional finals on Friday, Nov. 16, against No. 5 UC San Diego (15-2-3) at Denver. It is the first time since 2008 that the Vikings have reached the regional final. That season, they lost 1-0 to Seattle Pacific in overtime.
Maris followed the lead of Stephanie Hamilton, who scored an overtime game-winner in the Viking's first-round game against Cal Poly Pomona on Friday, Nov. 9.
"I really don't remember much about it," said Maris, who now leads the team with nine goals this season. "The ball came in from the right and I knew I was going to get there, so I just tried to redirect it, and the next thing I knew, it was in the back of the net."
Maris' game winner came less than three minutes into the second half of overtime. Catherine Miles dribbled into the penalty area on the right side and reached the end line before cutting a pass back into the middle. Maris held off a defender to get a foot on the ball, and it slowly rolled into the net.
Maris helped WWU open the scoring in the ninth minute, when she was brought down in the penalty area while attempting to shoot. Joana Houplin converted the penalty, her sixth goal of the year, driving a shot inside the left post.
"Sometimes having the bye like Sonoma did can be tricky, because you have to go through the nerves (of postseason)," WWU coach Travis Connell said. "We had been through that on Friday, and that helped us at the beginning of the game."
Sonoma State nearly equalized barely 30 seconds after Houplin's goal, as Ashley Martin got the ball behind the Viking defense only to put her first-touch shot off the crossbar from seven yards.
The Seawolves had an 11-9 advantage in shot attempts in a first half that featured numerous good chances for both teams. WWU defender Kayla Russ played a key role in maintaining the Vikings' lead, twice clearing loose balls off the goal line.
The Vikings nearly doubled the lead five minutes into the second half, as a header by Brianna Jones off a corner kick was cleared off the line by the Seawolves' Gretel Amman.
Sonoma State finally equalized in the 74th minute. Cara Curtin got free down the right side and played in a low cross to Elena Catania, who scored with a blast from 10 yards.
"They're a very talented team, and they dominated sections of the game," Connell said. "We knew it wasn't going to end up 1-0."
WWU had the first good chance in overtime, as in the 93rd minute a header by Miles went just wide. But 10 minutes later, Miles set up the game-winner, sending the Vikings to the next round.
"Our girls never back down, they really believe in themselves," said Connell. "We lost on a late goal at Seattle Pacific, and since then, we've been determined not to let that happen again."
WWU was out shot, 22-17, with GNAC Player of the Year goalkeeper Jamie Arthurs making eight saves.