The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville women’s soccer team was eliminated from the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Friday evening, suffering a 2-1 overtime defeat against top-seed UT Martin at Skyhawk Field.
The Cougars (13-5-3, 6-3-1 OVC) had defeated Eastern Illinois 2-1 Thursday to reach the tournament semi-finals, but ran into a UT Martin side that was well-rested after having a first-round bye and having not played a game in a week’s time.
“Obviously it’s a disappointing end to the season,” Head Coach Derek Burton said. “It’s a very difficult challenge for a team to play on consecutive days against an opponent that’s well-rested. However, I couldn’t be any more proud of this team. We showed a lot of heart and a lot of guts to do well with a short bench against a well-rested team.”
Forward Tory Pitts opened the scoring with her third goal in two days in the 15th minute of play. The Brentwood, Tenn., native chipped Skyhawks goalkeeper Mariah Klenke from outside the penalty area to give the Cougars an early 1-0 advantage.
But the hosts responded moments later, when UT Martin’s Hannah Fessenden scored off a rebound in the 21st minute to level the score at 1-1.
After a scoreless second half, Aoife Lennon netted the game-winning goal within five minutes of the first overtime period to send UT Martin into the tournament final on Sunday.
“We took on a lot of pressure throughout the game, but that’s how we were set up to play given the circumstances,” Burton said. “We had to pick our spots in terms of when to go forward, and unfortunately they got the final chance. Give credit to (Lennon), she buried it.”
Pitts led the Cougars offensively with five shots, while goalkeeper Jennifer Pelley made six saves in net. SIUE finishes the season with 13 wins, the program’s highest win total since the 2007 season when the Cougars also won 13 games.
“I’m very happy with the season; 13 wins is something to be proud of,” Burton said. “It took a while to get to this point. Not many people could’ve expected this two or three years ago, but we now have the coaches and the players to make it happen. We’re going to have high expectations moving forward.”
After the match, Burton also acknowledged the team’s seven seniors who saw their SIUE careers come to a close Friday night. Pitts, Hope Jones, Sarah Doggendorf, Chelsea Smith, Kourtney Price, Mary Kate Reed, and Erin DiGiovanni will all say goodbye to the program after this year.
“Our seniors have been unbelievable,” Burton added. “They’ve been unbelievable teammates, and they’ve represented our program, our athletic department, and our University in a first class way.”