FRANK CUSHMAN | SPORTS EDITOR
After the departure of the greatest soccer player in St. Norbert’s history, Katie Vanden Avond, there were some questions where the goals would come from this years team. So far the women have looked very strong. Jumping out to a 5-2 record beating strong teams in Concordia and Oshkosh in non-conference play and upending two time defending MWC champs Lake Forest to open the conference schedule. After losing a heartbreaker to Monmouth on Wednesday, the knights ground out a tough draw with Ripon this Saturday at a game played at West De Pere High School.
Spitting rain and a stiff breeze was the backdrop for a hard battle between the Knights and Red Hawks. Ripon was coming in on an tear, boasting a 10-0 record entering Saturday’s match. Ranked 6th in the region and with an astounding goal differential of 44-3 through the first 10 matches the 1-1 scoreline appears to be a solid result in the women’s bid for the conference crown.
The Green Knights took a 1-0 lead into halftime. The goal came in the 35th minute when Monica Stephens sent a fizzing ball into the box from the left flank which found Julia Schumacher who connected well, blasting the ball into the top of the net, for her first goal of the year. Thanks to some great goalkeeping from St. Norbert’s Maddie Plinska who was a dominate figure the whole match turning in an impressive 12 saves, the Knights held onto the lead entering the break.
Ripon came out raring at the whistle and put pressure on the Green Knights back line for much of the second half. Their breakthrough finally came in the 69th minute when the Red Hawks’, Paige Birschbach, leading goalscorer in all of division III netted her 17th goal of the season. That ended the goalscoring but the match itself stayed intense throughout with both teams threatening. In the first period of overtime Ripon looked to have a sure winner but the Green Knight defense made a last gasp goal line clearance.
The result brings the Knights to 4th in the conference standings, the last spot for entry into the tournament that decides the champion at the end of the season. They have played arguably the two toughest teams in conference and come away with a win and a draw. It leaves them in a good position moving into the heart of the season. The team played UW La Crosse on Sunday but the result was posted after press time. Next up, the Knights welcome Carroll University on Wednesday the 5th.