In the sixth minute of Tuesday’s home playoff game against St. Olaf, women’s soccer co-captain Maggie Molter ’14 (Cedarburg, Wis.) crashed to the ground after getting tied up with an Ole player. Wearing Mac’s home white and orange uniform, Molter blended in with the turf, which had picked up the Twin Cities’ first significant snow of the season.
As trainers rushed onto the field, Molter struggled to stand and, with their support, walk off the field with what would later be diagnosed as an ACL tear, Molter’s third of her career.
Starting midfielder Bonnie Gale ’15 (Anchorage, Alaska) was taken aback by the fall.
“When a player goes down like that,” she said, “Your first thought is to help them, but honestly in the middle of the game, you have to push it away and be like, ‘We have to focus. We have to bring the team together. We have to win this game for Maggie because she can’t be there.’”
Losing the team’s third-leading scorer was a crushing blow, but the Scots did not dwell on it. Instead, they dominated the rest of the half with crisp passes and disciplined defense at the back. In the 25th minute, Ingrid Greene ’15 (Madison, Wis.) shot a long ball from 35 yards out that bounced off the snow-covered turf and slipped through the hands of Oles’ goalie Nora Forbes to put the Scots up 1-0. The goal was Greene’s second of the season, and it was enough to ease the tension for the Scots.
Playing on a slippery turf to begin the game, both teams struggled to maintain possession as the ball seemed to move faster than the players. As the snow began to build, the opposite resulted, with players often overrunning the ball as it stuck to the pitch. Ball control remained a challenge as both sides were scoreless for the remainder of the half.
As has been the case all season, Georgia Cloepfil ’14 (Portland, Ore.) continued to create scoring opportunities for both her teammates and herself from almost nothing.
After several close attempts in the first half, Cloepfil—the lone player braving the cold in short sleeves—was dragged down in the box and converted the ensuing penalty in the 71st minute for her team-high 18th goal of the season to make it 2-0. After that, it was all Macalester.
Margaret Nemetz ’15 (Ann Arbor, Mich.) scored her first goal of the season six minutes later, and in the 86th minute, Gale made it 4-0 after an Ole handball in the box gave the Scots another penalty, which she sent into the corner of the net, giving the keeper no chance. Hannah Pollard-Garber ’16 (Rockville, Md.) finished off the late scoring frenzy receiving a pass from Nemetz and chipping it over the head of Forbes, completing a 5-0 shutout victory.
Although a focused Macalester defense did not allow many shots on goal (the Scots outshot the Oles 23-7), goalie Ellen Palmquist ’14 (Fort Collins, Colo.) accounted for two critical saves. She said it was challenging to adapt to the snowy conditions, referencing Forbes’ blown save earlier in the game as an example. “I don’t think you really adjust,” Palmquist said. “You just hope it doesn’t happen to you, and it didn’t happen to me tonight.”
Head Coach Michele Cornish said she spoke with her team at halftime about adjustments for the weather, which included being extra patient and scrappy. “The snow was holding every pass up,” she said. “Every time we tried to dribble, it was getting caught up underneath us. We couldn’t hit any long balls, even if we wanted to.”
Cornish credited the defense for its strong play. “We didn’t let the ball get behind us very much,” she said. “We pressured the ball when we needed to. Every time they had the ball, we were able to put immediate pressure on them. It’s difficult in snowy conditions to be able to do that, and everybody was just very determined to make sure that they weren’t going to be able to do much with the ball when they did have it, and we really just shut them down.”
After the final horn sounded, the Scots hugged and high-fived each other before making their way over towards the bleachers for their traditional post-game “Jiggalo” cheer.
As the teammates lined up for the dance, one player was missing. Limping over on crutches from the far side of the field was Molter. Her addition to the dance line was met with a standing ovation and repeated chants of her name from the crowd. “MAG-GIE MOL-TER,” they said.
“The fans definitely get some credit for the win,” Cornish said. “They did a great job for us.”
“Best fans in D-III,” Cloepfil said.
Following the Jiggalo, players had some fun. Several slid across the field on their bellies like penguins on ice, and Palmquist made snow angels in front of the goal. “I was already pretty well soaked through, so I thought I might as well celebrate in style,” she said.
With the win, the Scots advance to Saturday’s MIAC Playoffs Championship game against regular season champion, St. Benedict (15-2-1, 9-2 MIAC) at noon in Collegeville.
Weather could play a factor again, and Macalester figures to keep an eye on it. “I guess that will all depend on whether or not we get to be outside and prepare on the grass or upstairs in the gym,” Cornish said. “I think we’ll probably be doing a lot of the similar things that we’ve been doing up to this point. We’re prepared to play them. We’re a possession team, and I think we’ll plow through.”
Since the beginning of the year, Cloepfil’s goal has been to lead the Scots to a conference championship. Now only one win away, she said “it feels really good.” “We’ve already beat St. Ben’s (1-0),” she said. “We know we can do it. We’re on a roll right now. We feel confident. We had five different players score goals tonight, which is phenomenal. We’re dynamic, and we’re playing the best we’ve played all season, so I’m excited.”
Winners in 10 of their last 11 games, Macalester will now be fighting for a shot at Nationals. With a win against St. Ben’s, the Scots would automatically qualify for the tournament and could potentially earn a first round home game. With a loss, they could still potentially earn an at-large bid to Nationals, which could depend heavily on how the teams above them in the regional rankings perform. The Scots sit fifth in the latest regional rankings, although these do not include Mac’s latest triumph. “Every time we get to play on this field (at Macalester) now it could be our last game, so I’m just happy to be out there,” Palmquist said.
Gale said she’s trying to make the most of her remaining moments with the team’s talented senior class. “It’s sad to think about if it (Tuesday) was our last game, but luckily it’s not and we get another one,” she said. “I love them (the seniors). They’re awesome. … It’s great that we get to keep continuing the season with them as long as possible.”
Additional reporting by Zach Gilfix.