Women's soccer sweeps into NCAA's sweet sixteen

By Nate Oglesbee

As the accordion warmed up and the crowd’s voice began to belt out “Scotland the Brave” midway through the second half of last Saturday’s game against the Grinnell College Pioneers, the Scots put the ball in the net. The goal briefly interrupted the crowd and forced them to switch to “Ole, Ole, Ole,” before resuming the heart-warming rendition of “Scotland the Brave.” That moment was emblematic of Macalester’s continuing drive deeper into the NCAA playoffs. The team was careful not to overlook Grinnell, but after quickly dispatching the Pioneers, Mac is ready to move on to bigger and better things.

Mac is now just four wins away from becoming national champions. The Scots play Puget Sound today at 1:30 at the campus of the University of Chicago. If they win that game, they’ll play Saturday against the winner of the Wheaton (Ill.)/University of Chicago game, two of the top teams in the nation.

Another win there would move Mac into the Final Four, held Nov. 25-26 in Greensboro, N.C. Making it that would force the Scots to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday on the road, with the team for their family.

With a first-round bye in the playoffs, Mac had extra time to prepare for Grinnell, and it showed. An early goal by MIAC MVP Annie Borton `07 gave the Scots control of the game and they never looked back. Two more goals in the second half by Katie Pastorius ’06 and Meghan Leahey ’06 sealed Grinnell’s fate and sent Mac on to the Sweet 16.

Head coach John Leaney cautioned that the Grinnell game was not as easy as it seemed.

“They’re a good team, they just couldn’t get through our defense,” Leaney said. “It looked on the stats like it was easier than it was.”

Mac’s defense was once again superb. Grinnell only managed four shots on goal, none of which were a huge threat. Mac has shut out its last eight opponents and allowed only one goal in its last 13 games.

“I think our defense this year is not so much just the people in the back, but we play defense all over the field,” All-MIAC defender Cara Goff ’06 said.

The all-around strength of the women’s squad was recently honored by the naming of five of the women to the All-MIAC team. Joining Goff and Borton on the team are midfielders Leahey and Pastorius, and keeper Louisa Bigelow ’06. Each team is only allowed to have five All-Conference players, otherwise Mac might have had a couple more, especially in the likes of first-year forward Grace King. King was second in the MIAC in goals scored this year and has provided an offense spark to go along with Borton up top.

Borton was also honored this year as the MIAC MVP. “It was really cool,” Borton said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

Borton may not have been expecting it, but Leaney thinks she is more than deserving. “There’s two players that are outstanding, [Concordia-Moorhead’s] Morgan Bain and Annie, and they’re very different,” Leaney said. “Morgan is explosive and fast. Annie is smart and crafty. And I think in the end we showed that the smart and crafty player is the one that will get the job done for a team.”

Leaney was also honored as MIAC coach of the year for his outstanding job with the team.

Leaney’s coaching skills will be put to the test in the next few days as Mac battles some top competition. The game against Puget Sound today looks like it will be a defensive struggle, as the Loggers have not allowed a goal since a 2-1 loss early in the season.

“They went to the national finals and got beat on penalty kicks, and they’re extremely strong defensively,” Leaney said. “But I don’t think they’ve played an offense as strong as us.