Carnegie Mellon Claim Sweet Sixteen Spot

Carnegie Mellon women’s soccer sped past the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division III tournament with two pacey performances against Cabrini College and SUNY-Oneonta. The Tartans advanced to the Round of 16, where they’ll face Calvin College at a time and place to be determined.

The two defenses struggled all weekend to catch up with a quick Carnegie Mellon team full of fitness. Tartan fullbacks worked the wide areas in their first round match against Cabrini and tired out the Cavaliers by halftime. With Cabrini gassed, Carnegie Mellon coach Yon Struble moved to a more direct approach. Four second half goals came from straightforward runs into the box, wrapping up a 5-0 opening act.

Oneonta matched the Tartans energy in the second round for the full 90 minutes. The high-intensity of the Red Dragons rattled the fifth-ranked team in the nation for stretches of the game and prevented Carnegie Mellon from flying around the pitch. However, once the match reached extra time, the Tartans superior conditioning proved the difference. An in-form Sienna Stritter soared past an Oneonta defender and rounded the keeper for the golden goal.

Stritter opened her tournament account a half hour into the Cabrini match on Saturday thanks to a goalkeeper error. Alivia Dietsch was caught too far out of her cage and the sophomore poked the ball into an open net.

Stritter’s second was much more legitimate and ignited the Tartans tour de force in the second half. She drove into the penalty area and lifted the shot into the top corner on 50 minutes. Cabrini was desperate to stop Carneige Mellon from running all over them and tried to implement an offside trap.

That trap failed miserably as the irresponsibly high line opened the floodgates. Morgan Kontor’s cross on 68 minutes floated to the back post, where Alli McGugan touched it home. Two goals from Nicole Winegardner rounded out the performance. Megan Bartoshuk worked her way out of the corner to provide the service for Winegardner’s powerful header on 80 minutes. A simple finish from a rebound two minutes later closed the scoring for the night.

Carnegie Mellon relied on their resilient defense on Sunday against Oneonta. The Tartans have conceded just 8 goals in 19 matches, with their second round win marking their 12th clean sheet. Their midfielders were first to most of the 50/50 balls, allowing them to keep the majority of possession in the first half. Any possible threat was instantly booted away by sweeper keeper Katie Liston.

A scrappy game looked to be heading towards penalties based on the lack of chances created by both teams. Stritter stepped up for the Tartans two minutes into extra time to quell that possibility. Her third goal in two days equaled her total from the entire regular season.

The Round of 16 will be where Carnegie Mellon’s challenge truly begins. Their 16-2 season last year ended with a Sweet Sixteen exit to John Hopkins in penalties. The speed and toughness they demonstrated over the weekend will be qualities they have to keep displaying for a potential championship run.