The two top teams in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference women’s soccer played for much more than a championship as the regular season concluded last week.
In last Wednesday’s rematch of the 2016 MIAC playoff final, Augsburg clinched a tie for the regular-season title with a 1-1 overtime tie at two-time defending champion St. Thomas. The game doubled as a fundraiser for Tessie Thompson-Sylvester, a 2013 Tommies Hall of Fame inductee and mother of two who was diagnosed with inoperable cancer June 16, the same day her husband, former soccer pro and longtime coach John Sylvester, died of ALS. Both teams presented placards at halftime recognizing friends and family affected by cancer.
“Wednesday was about community for me; we’re all in this together,” said Augsburg coach Mike Navarre, whose mother, Joy Navarre, died of cancer Aug. 15, age 78. “We live in divided times, and Augsburg and St. Thomas are bitter rivals. But we can all rally around cancer. It’s a cruel disease.”
Augsburg secured the outright league title last Saturday with a 2-1 overtime win over St. Olaf, dropping the Oles to third behind St. Thomas. The Auggies and Tommies earned first-round byes in the MIAC postseason tournament, scheduled to begin Tuesday with 2:00 p.m. games featuring No. 6 seed Gustavus at No. 3 St. Olaf and No. 5 St. Catherine at No. 4 St. Benedict. Wednesday’s semifinal games are scheduled at 2:00 p.m. at St. Thomas and 7:00 pm at Augsburg.
The MIAC playoff final is set for 1:00 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at the highest seed, with the winner earning the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.
The Auggies improved to 8-1-2 in the MIAC and 12-3-2 overall with the win over St. Olaf (6-3-2, 9-7-2). Sophomore forward Ashley St. Aubin scored the game-winning goal 45 seconds into the second overtime after assisting on junior forward Jessy Wiskofske’s first-half strike. Wiskofske and sophomore forward Ciara Gregory combined for 11 goals and six assists to complement St. Aubin’s league-leading totals of 16 goals and 36 points.
“We have an exceptional player in Ashley St. Aubin,” said Navarre. “She scored goals in nine of 11 conference games, and one of the games she didn’t score in she had two assists.”
Led by senior defender Lauren Jennings and the goalkeeping combination of senior Marissa Guillou and sophomore Emily Chapman, the Auggies surrendered just three goals in their final nine games. Both Jennings and Guillou played for the 2014 Augsburg team that clinched the league title with an overtime win over St. Thomas before doubling as playoff champs with victories over the Tommies and Concordia.
St. Thomas (7-3-1, 12-3-2) secured second place with Saturday’s 3-1 win at Bethel and St. Olaf’s loss at Augsburg. Tommies junior Mallory DeBoom’s first-half goal was her 10th this season, and first-year players Paige Cater and Tessa Trettel added second-half strikes. St. Thomas also defeated St. Olaf 1-0 Oct. 21 during a four-game unbeaten run to end the regular season.
“We put ourselves in a tough position early in the season by not taking care of business,” said St. Thomas coach Sheila McGill. “It was a bit of a mentality that had to change. Every game counts, and every single opponent that we play, nobody’s going to lay down. We really need to make sure we’re showing up for every game—fighting—because there are really talented teams. Any team in our conference can beat us if we don’t show up to play.”
Despite eight all-time NCAA tournament appearances, St. Thomas never has won the MIAC playoffs. The Tommies lost to Augsburg in last year’s tourney final and finished second to Gustavus in 2015.
“It’s about grit, physical play, giving it 110 percent every moment you get a chance to step out on the field,” said McGill of the conference tournament. “It’s a privilege to be there, and we need to make sure we make the most of it.”
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