Women’s soccer falls short in RMAC semifinals despite first-round game-winner

After an exciting game-winner in the quarterfinals of the RMAC tournament, the UCCS Mountain Lions women’s soccer squad dropped their semifinal match, keeping them out of RMAC championship contention.

Quarterfinals vs. Fort Lewis

The Mountain Lions, ranked 25th in the nation, faced off against the Fort Lewis College Skyhawks to begin RMAC tournament play on Oct. 30, where redshirt junior forward Kaitlin Hinkle netted the game-winning goal with just four seconds left on the clock to advance UCCS to the semifinals.

Starting the match, the Mountain Lions were able to drive the early action in opposing territory with four early shots, four corner kicks and a pair of shots on goal from redshirt junior defender Jade Kinsey and redshirt sophomore midfielder Makayla Merlo within the first 20 minutes.

With the defenders holding their own on both ends of the pitch, both the Skyhawks and Mountain Lions entered the half scoreless. Just six minutes into the second half, however, Hinkle found sophomore midfielder Fie Steenberg at the edge of the box, where she fired a left-footed shot into the back of the net for the first score of the match, 1-0.

After a consistent effort from the Mountain Lions’ defense, the Skyhawks found some room in the middle of the box, where Fort Lewis headed the ball in the 86th minute, bringing the game equal with only four minutes remaining.

UCCS played to win, though, and with just under a minute remaining in the match, Hinkle managed to separate the Skyhawks’ defense, striking the deciding goal into the top corner of the net in the 90th minute, effectively sending the Mountain Lions to the next round of the tournament.

Hinkle’s game-winner was her sixth goal of the season, and her 26 career goals as a Mountain Lion propelled her into third place on the all-time scoring list for UCCS women’s soccer players. Hinkle also moved into a tie for the most game-winning goals from a Mountain Lion, grabbing her ninth all-time.

Semifinals vs. Regis University

Following their gutsy victory against the Fort Lewis Skyhawks, the Mountain Lions looked to continue their hot streak against the #3 ranked Regis University Rangers on Nov. 2. But UCCS couldn’t hold onto their late lead and were swiftly eliminated from the RMAC tournament in a 3-2 loss.

Regis took an early lead from the Mountain Lions, netting their first goal on a left-footed strike from the Raiders in the 16th minute.

After a pair of impressive saves from the Raiders’ goalkeeper, denying redshirt sophomore midfielder Kelsey Takahashi from tying the match at one a piece, the Mountain Lions headed into halftime with their first deficit of the RMAC tournament.

Beginning the final 45 minutes of play, UCCS was able to contest the Raiders’ defense with 18 shots, nine of which on goal, but could not put one past the keeper to equalize the match.

However, with just under ten minutes to play, redshirt senior midfielder Fabiolo Estrada and sophomore midfielder Annie Louthan linked up with one another on a beautiful pass to the middle of the box, where Louthan finished the goal in the 84th minute to put the Mountain Lions level with the Rangers, 1-1.

With both teams even, the match progressed into overtime, where UCCS nearly immediately capitalized on their opportunity. Estrada worked a free kick to redshirt junior midfielder Zoe Sims for the 2-1 advantage only two minutes into the period.

However, in the 103rd minute, a misdirected clear attempt from a Mountain Lion defender found its way into the back of their own net, knotting the match up at 2-2. Only seven minutes later, Rangers forward Audrey Teague controlled a midfield pass and scored in the 109th minute for the deciding goal of the match.

The Mountain Lions couldn’t recover and dropped their final in-conference match of the season, 3-2, knocking them out of the RMAC tournament. Estrada recorded the first multi-assist game of her career, while Kinsey, Merlo, Sims, Louthan and redshirt sophomore defender Makenna Fowler all played the entirety of the 110-minute match.

Currently, the Mountain Lions rank fifth in the South Central Region in Division II rankings. Despite this loss, UCCS still sits at 19th in the NCAA Division II standings and will face Angelo State University in the NCAA tournament on Friday, Nov. 11.

UCCS women’s soccer team celebrates after scoring a goal in prior game against Adams State. Photo by Lexi Petri.