The Lions will continue post-season play this Saturday, November 3rd as they travel to Hanover College for the HCAC Championship. The Panthers are currently ranked #14 in the country for Division III women's soccer and defeated the Ravens of Anderson University 2-0 in the semi-finals. The Lions defeated the Pioneers of Transylvania University 3-0 in their last match on Wednesday, October 30th to advance to the championship match. This is the second year in a row that the Lions have made the HCAC Championship, falling to the Grizzlies of Franklin College 2-0 in the previous year.
The last time the Lions faced the Hanover Panthers was October 24th and they lost in an overtime thriller to decide who would rule the HCAC. The Lions controlled the tempo for most of the match but Hanover was able to turn the tide late in the match. Paige Mersmann (Florence, KY / Boone County) would strike first for the Lions in the 20th minute to take the lead over the Panthers. Hanover would find a late goal in the 75th minute to tie the game and eventually lead to overtime. After a scoreless first overtime period, Hanover would get a penalty kick in the box on a handball call early in the second overtime period. Hanover would score on the PK, leading to a tough 2-1 overtime loss for the Lions.
The Lions will be looking to the same players to make an impact on the field. Kaylan Gruber (Harrison, OH / Harrison) was essential in the Lions 3-0 victory over the Transylvania Pioneers, assisting on two of the three goals. Mersmann scored a goal in the victory against the Pioneers so expect her to perform well in the match against Hanover. The Lions will also rely on Jodie Weimer (Cleves, OH / Taylor) and Hannah Schloemer (Lawrenceburg, IN / East Central) to put pressure on the Panthers defense and keep them on their heels.
Another key factor to the Lions success is key defensive players stepping up their play. The Lions won most of the 50/50 balls in the match against Transylvania, allowing them control the tempo of the match and keep possession. Madeline Rechel (Harrison, Ohio / Harrison) and Stefanie Autenrieb (Cincinnati, Ohio / Seton) helped the Lions win the midfield in the match against Transylvania to expect to see the same against the Panthers. Taylor Murphy (Batavia, OH / Batavia), Alex Hines (Cincinnati, OH / Walnut Hills), and Emily Reichling (Cincinnati, OH / Oak Hills) played great defense against the Pioneers. Freshman goalie Megan Gilpin (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers) performed very well in her first post-season match, thwarting six of Transylvania's attempts at the goal.
Coach Josh Hess is looking forward to being in the HCAC Championship game yet again. "We are very excited to return to the HCAC Championship again for a second year in a row. The women in our program have been dedicated, hard-working and shown resilience in the face of challenges all season. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with them. It's a source of pride for our program that we have made it to this step again. We are very aware of the talent and ability that Hanover possess and will bring to the field with them on Saturday. Our focus leading up to the match will be to simply sharpen up what we do and prepare for Hanover. I am incredibly proud of the group of players in our locker room and I have no doubt that we will be ready to kick-off on Saturday."
The Lions will take on the #14 ranked Hanover Panthers this Saturday, October 3rd at 11:00AM. The match will be played at the Hanover Soccer Complex on the campus of Hanover College. With a win, the Lions could clinch a spot in the NCAA Division III Tournament. Check MSJSports.com for more updates on the Lions post season!