After scoring a goal in the first minute against Duquesne, the St. Louis University women’s soccer team piled on to tally five times in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals.
It took the Billikens much longer to get on the scoreboard in Friday’s semifinal against La Salle. And there weren’t many chances to add to the lead in a 1-0 victory at Hermann Stadium.
Courtney Reimer scored in the 27th minute on a header and SLU made it stand up to extend its unbeaten streak to a program-record 15 games. The top-seeded Billikens will face George Washington in the championship game Sunday at 1 p.m., with the winner earning an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“We had a feeling they’d come out and press us like they did and make the game disruptive,” SLU coach Katie Shields said. “They’ve had a lot of success like that. We prepared the team in the scout that this was not going to be an easy game, and it wasn’t.”
The Billikens (16-3-2) outshot La Salle (11-8-1) 17-6 but put only four shots on goal. They entered the game averaging two goals per game and nearly three goals in the previous 11 games.
But with A-10 defensive player of the year Alli Klug and first-team goalkeeper Mary Niehaus, SLU was prepared to handle the final 62 minutes.
Six players and Niehaus played the full 90 minutes in a game that started with a temperature of 33 degrees.
“We’re seniors, so keep us out there as long as we can and we’ll keep going,” Reimer said.
SLU is trying to win the A-10 tournament for the second consecutive year. The opportunity to play all three tourney games at home is a clear advantage for a team that is 36-1-5 at home in the last 42 games, with the only loss coming to St. Joseph’s in the A-10 tourney in 2017.
“The atmosphere we get at home with the community, little girls, the clubs, relatives and parents is a little different and more special here,” Klug said.
Niehaus continued her stellar play as SLU recorded its 13th shutout of the season for another school record. She saved the only two shots she faced and La Salle generated only one corner kick.
SLU was struggling to produce scoring opportunities when sophomore forward Hannah Friedrich lofted a pass into the box. Reimer read the play perfectly and headed the ball into the left side of the goal as goalkeeper Claudia Jenkins dove in the other direction.
“I know Hannah likes to cut in, so when I saw her I just took a chance, got in the box and she played an awesome ball that I got my head on,” Reimer said.
After that, the flow of play didn’t favor the Billikens.
“I did not love the first half,” Shields said. “The goal was brilliant, but it was so choppy that we never found a lot of rhythm. In the second half we did for a few spells. But it’s the playoffs and margins are tight. Not our best performance, but credit to La Salle for making it hard.”
The assist for Friedrich was her team-leading 25th point of the season and the 55th of her career, moving her into a tie for eighth on SLU’s all-time list.
Stu Durando @studurando on Twitter email@example.com