The UW-Oshkosh women’s soccer team started someone other than Nina Muzi in goal for the first time all season due to an injured knee she suffered in the previous match against UW-Platteville on Saturday.
But Angela Christensen stepped into the net admirably Thursday night, and the rest of the Titan defense once again rose to the challenge.
Rachel Elliott scored the game’s only goal in the 81st minute, and Christensen recorded three saves to earn her first career shutout as the Titans topped UW-Eau Claire 1-0 in the WIAC tournament semifinal on J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.
“Angela has been ready and has really worked hard and she’s a very competent goalkeeper and she showed it,” coach Erin Coppernoll said. “It was great for her to get the shutout.”
UW-Oshkosh’s Courtney Leister (15) and Eau Claire’s Fallon Peplinski (27) race after a ball Thursday at the WIAC Semi Final Soccer game at J. J. Keller Field.
UW-Oshkosh (11-7-1) will play at UW-Whitewater (18-2) in the title match at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The Titans have allowed only 11 goals in their 19 games this season, and have shut out every single opponent they’ve beaten. But with a new goalkeeper in net, the Titan defense needed to be even better.
And they were.
UW-Eau Claire managed just seven shots on the night, and its only shot on goal in the first half was deflected off of a Titan defenders head.
UWO kept things simple for Christensen as well, having defender Nikki Mann kick all the goal kicks and letting its goalkeeper focus on simply saving the shots in front of her.
“I was a lot more tired since I had to take all the goal kicks,” Mann joked. “But she stepped it up and helped us win.”
Christensen did get tested once in the second half on a UW-Eau Claire counter attack, but she foiled a 3-on-2 Blugold attack with a save in the 75th minute.
“Angela played awesome today and everyone on the back line plays awesome all the time, we just had to close the gaps and clear (the ball) as quickly as we could,” Rachel Elliott said.
Still, with the UWO defense doing its job and keeping the Blugolds off the scoreboard, the Titans needed to manage a goal of their own.
In stepped Rachel Elliott.
Rachel and her twin sister Robyn combined for nine of the teams 15 shots, including five of the seven UWO had on goal, but for the first 80 minutes UW-Eau Claire held the Titans scoreless.
In the 81st minute however, the sisters struck. Robyn fed Rachel out front of the goalkeeper Emily Byal, and Rachel’s shot bounced off the turf and went just high enough to stay out of reach of Byal for the game-winning goal.
“It was such a relief,” Rachel Elliott said. “I think everybody just let all the air out and we just said ‘we can do this, we just need to hold on and play our game the final 10 minutes.”
The Titans were in the same situation a year ago. They advanced to the WIAC title game and faced off with UW-Whitewater before falling to the Warhawks 1-0 to end UWO’s season.
They also lost to Whitewater 1-0 earlier this year as well, but the team is confident heading into Saturday’s title match that this time could be different.
“I’m really excited to move on and play Whitewater again, I think we have a really good chance at the conference title,” Mann said. “They’ve beat us the past couple years, but I think we’re hungry enough and we’re ready. Everyone just needs to believe that we can beat them.”
UW-Eau Claire…0 0—0
First half: No scoring
Second half: UWO — Rachel Elliott (Robyn Elliott), 80:09.
Saves: EC (Emily Byal) 5. UWO (Angela Christensen) 3.
Jake Van Camp: (920) 426-6661 or jvancamp@ thenorthwestern.com
For photos from the match go to thenorthwestern.com