Colorado Mines hasn’t trailed often this year, and Fort Lewis College women’s soccer had the Orediggers on the ropes.
But Mines didn’t compile an unbeaten record without learning how to avoid a knockout blow.
The No. 2 Orediggers pulled even in the 76th minute and scored with 34 seconds left in overtime to outlast the No. 21 Skyhawks 2-1 on Sunday at Dirks Field in the regular season finale.
Jaclyn Knott fought off a defender, took a touch around the hard-charging Amanda Raso and tapped the ball into a yawning net to lift Mines to an unbeaten regular season at 17-0-1 and 14-0-0 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
A win or draw would’ve made the Skyhawks (14-4-0, 10-4-0 RMAC) the No. 2 seed in the RMAC Tournament, giving them a first-round bye. Instead, FLC stayed at No. 3 and will host a first-round game at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday against sixth-seeded UC-Colorado Springs. The winner will advance to the semifinals Friday in Golden to face Metro State.
“It’s definitely a mental battle to prepare to come back,” FLC midfielder Megan Striedel said. “Just realize that although it’s not the result we wanted, it’s still the same path we have to take. So, we’ve got the same goal, and now it just takes another step to get there.”
An extra couple of days off may have helped. Sam Weiss exited in overtime with what appeared to be a possible concussion, and goalkeeper Caitlyn Espinosa sat out Sunday with a nagging back injury. The availability of both for Wednesday and going forward is uncertain.
“I would imagine (Weiss) has a concussion,” Fort Lewis head coach Damian Clarke said. “It’s unfortunate.”
The Skyhawks struck first, forcing the Orediggers to do something they haven’t done much of this year – play catch-up. Weiss found herself on the end of a long Therese Romero feed, split two defenders near the top of the penalty area and took a clean touch around goalkeeper Jayln Yates before knocking home the game’s first goal and her 10th of the year in the 26th minute.
It was the lone tally in what was a fairly dominant first half for Fort Lewis. Most of the possession took place in Colorado Mines’ end of the pitch in the first half, and FLC was dangerous throughout, holding a 15-9 edge in shots and forcing Yates to make six saves.
“I think we feel we’re more athletic,” Clarke said. “We feel like as long as we can give ourselves chances to win tackles, counter quickly, put the ball in behind here and there, we think we’re more athletic than them, and I think we showed it in the first half, and we allowed their organization to make it difficult for us in the second half.”
Despite FLC’s push, Mines found an equalizer in the 76th minute when Cari Smith fired home Jordan Hopper’s corner kick back across goal and into the lower left-hand corner of the net. From there, the Orediggers were able to hold the FLC attack at bay long enough to pick up the winner.
“Obviously, they defend well. You can’t take anything away from a team like that,” Clarke said. “Psychologically, I think that’s a very strong unit across the back.”
Raso stepped in for the Skyhawks and made a pair of saves while looking far from rusty in just her second start of the season.