The Milwaukee women’s soccer team battled to the last second, but was unable to connect with the back of the net in a hard-fought, in-state rivalry game against No. 10 Wisconsin (15-3-2) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday evening. The Panthers ultimately fell to the Badgers, 1-0.
A lone goal from Wisconsin’s Dani Rhodes – the Big Ten Forward of the Year — in the 24th minute made the difference in the game.
The loss is just the second of the season for Milwaukee, who finishes the year with another impressive 17-2-1 mark.
“Congratulations to Wisconsin on moving on. They created one chance off of our mistake and put the ball in the back of the net in the first half,’ head coach Troy Fabiano said. “We had two chances in the first half, but unfortunately we weren’t able to put them away.”
“The goal put us behind, 1-0, and made us chase the game in the second half, which then opened things up on both ends. Unfortunately for us, we were unable to find an equalizer,” Fabiano added.
Down by one, the Panthers began to put the pressure on with a pair of shots from both Haley Johnson and Rachel Phillpotts, but the ball would be just off target in both looks.
Elaina LaMacchia opened up the second half with an incredible save that would bounce right off the top post and back into play. The sophomore tallied three more big saves for the Panthers in the half to hold the Badgers to the single goal despite their seven shots in the period.
“A lot of people, besides us, probably don’t appreciate what LaMacchia does for us because she is not called upon as much. But she showed us her ability to make saves today and keep us in the game.”
The Panthers went ahead to try and draw level using five corner kicks in the second half and two shots on goal in the final minutes of play by Johnson and Taylor Hattori. Wisconsin’s Jordyn Bloomer would get in the way before the ball could get inside the net.
“No matter what nobody wants their season to end, but there is always only going to be one team in the end,” Fabiano added. “The biggest piece for us is when you look at their faces and yeah they are upset, but it only shows me that they are not satisfied with just winning a conference championship, they want to get farther.”
“Tonight they don’t feel it, but they should keep their heads up because it was obviously a great season.”
Milwaukee was whistled for nine fouls on the day to UW’s 11, and the Badgers outshot MKE, 10-4.
Friday’s result caps the outstanding careers of the Horizon League Defender of the Year McKaela Schmelzer, Chandler McDaniel, Olivia Davies-McDaniel and Gaby Zabala.