Toledo captures MAC titleWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A season removed from a 1-0 upset by fifth-seeded Western Michigan in the Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals as the No. 1 seed, this year’s top-seeded Rockets returned the favor in a 1-0 victory over the Broncos at Scott Park on Nov. 6 to capture the 2011 MAC Women’s Soccer Championship.
“Well, we talked about that before the game,” Toledo head coach Brad Evans said. “I’m glad we’re playing a very good team in Western [Michigan]. I only want to play good teams here, and [WMU head coach Suzie Grech has] done a good job with them, but last year at this time this was the team that cut our seniors’ season last year short. And we wanted to take this opportunity to see if we can do right by this year’s seniors, so I’m really excited about that.”
The win gave UT its fourth MAC Tournament title, a conference record. The Rockets have now won the MAC Tournament in four out of the last six seasons in addition to capturing the MAC regular season title in three out of the last four years. Toledo won both in 2011.
“Oh, my God,” Evans said on where this season ranks compared to previous years. “Every year when you win it’s the best year from the standpoint we continue to get opportunities to do this, but you’re never guaranteed that as last year’s shows. I thought the kids did a great job of again—grinding; sticking with the gameplan. They were the responsible parties here.”
The Rockets and Broncos battled through a defensive first half which ended in a 0-0 tie. In the second half, however, Toledo found success once again on the foot of sophomore forward and 2011 MAC Offensive Player of the Year Rachel MacLeod, who kicked in the game-winning goal on her only shot of the contest at the 68:01 mark after getting the assist from senior defender and St. Ursula Academy graduate Danielle Case and freshman forward Rio James.
“It was off of a cross, and it kind of deflected back and I was in front of the goalie,” said MacLeod, who leads UT with 11 goals this year. “The ball came back towards me and I just kicked it behind me, kind of. It worked out. It was kind of set up perfectly.”
“Well, you know, as I said on Friday you just don’t know when or where she’ll show up, but she has that knack,” Evans said of MacLeod. “That’s what makes dangerous offensive players. I’m happy for her. I’m happy for the team. Good delivery. Good battle.”
Despite not scoring until the second half, the Rockets (14-6-2) spent a lot of time in the Broncos’ end during the first 45 minutes, registering five shots while limiting Western Michigan (14-8-0) without a shot until the 27:16 mark. WMU ended up with three shots in the first half, two of which came in the final minute of the period.
“When something in soccer happens over and over, you don’t view it as, ‘Oh, my God. We’ve had 15 opportunities and haven’t scored,’” Evans said. “You look at it, it’s just an opportunity, and you’ve got a chance to score and that’s where that opportunity [is]. And that works when you’re attacking. It also works when you’re defending.”
Offensively, Toledo came out on the attack in the final 45 minutes, recording nine shots. UT also clamped down defensively, limiting the Broncos to just one shot in the second half as it held a 14-4 advantage in that category for the game.
“Statistically it was tilted, but again, it’s a play,” Evans said. “It’s something here; it’s something there and I think you’ve got to dig deep. I mean, I don’t think [Western Michigan has] conceded a goal in seven games, so to find one was hard enough. But again, somebody made a play.”
The Rockets placed four players on the All-Tournament team: MacLeod, junior defender Natalia Gaitan, senior forward Kristen Lynn and senior midfielder Ana Reynolds. On Nov. 7, Toledo will find out who it faces in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The announcement will be made via ncaa.com at approximately 4:30 p.m.
“It means so much to us,” MacLeod said of the victory. “We worked so hard day-in and day-out for this. I mean, it means everything.”