By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Western Washington University put a sudden end to Sonoma State’s dreams of a deep run in the NCAA Division II women’s soccer tournament with a 2-1 overtime victory in front of a standing-room-only crowd Sunday afternoon at Seawolf Field.
To make the outcome even harder to take for the home fans, the winning goal might’ve been deflected into the net by a SSU player.
There were players from both teams in front of the goal when Kristin Maris made the kick that was the game winner.
The sequence began with Catherine Miles dribbling into the penalty area on the right side. She was able to reach the end line before cutting a pass back in the middle. Maris held off SSU’s Carolyn Greco to get a foot on the ball and then, in slow motion, it slowly rolled into the net, just beyond the reach of keeper Alexis Sciacqua and defender Sara Studer.
“The ball was definitely redirected before it went into the goal,” Maris said.
“It touched one player, maybe two. I couldn’t tell if it deflected off my teammates or Sonoma State players.”
The winner came with 7:04 left in the second overtime.
Sonoma State coach Emiria Salzmann Dunn also wasn’t certain how the shot made it into the net.
“The ball was rolling toward the goal and it looked like it was deflected. We couldn’t stop it.”
The Seawolves, in the NCCA Tournament for the first time in a dozen years, were the No. 1 seed in the West Region. Western Washington was No. 5.
The visitors from Bellingham, Wash., scored first 8:50 into the contest. Joana Houplin converted a penalty kick after an SSU player was whistled for a pull down in front of the net.
The score remained that way until the Seawolves scored with 16:32 left in regulation. The goal came on a kick by Elena Catania with an assist by Cara Curtin.
“I took Cara’s pass in the box and got it into the left side,” Catania said.
“After that goal, we started playing with more energy and were feeling confident. We’ve been down before and came back, we just couldn’t do it this time.”
Salzmann Dunn also had a good feeling about the outcome when her team knotted the score.
“I believe so much in this team and I’ve seen them come from behind so many times,” she said. “I was cautiously optimistic.”
For most of the game, Western Washington controlled the tempo. The Vikings also won the midfield battle.
SSU had the advantage in shots (22-17) and corner kicks (6-4), but WWU’s netminder Jamie Arthurs, the Great Northwest Athletic Player of the Year, made eight saves and her teammates blocked three other shots. Sciacqua made two stops.
Salzmann Dunn was named coach 15 months ago, coming over from Santa Rosa JC.
“I owe so much to this group, especially the seniors,” she said. “Their leadership inspired me. We will always have a special bond.“
Seniors on the team are: Catania, Sciacqua, Studer, Ashley Martin, Bree Robles, Macy Usher, Holly Weaver, and Gretel Amman.
Sonoma State ends the season with a 16-3-2 mark, the fifth-best record in school history.
The Vikings improve to 19-3-0 and advance to Thursday’s regional final in Denver.