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Women’s soccer: Aurora University seeks elusive tournament win

AurorUniversity senior Kaitlyn Crohan has seven goals 10 assists this season. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

Aurora University senior Kaitlyn Crohan has seven goals and 10 assists this season. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 10, 2012 6:18AM

Getting a berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament has never been a problem.

Winning a game in that tournament is a different matter for the Aurora University women’s soccer team.

The Spartans have never won a game in the NCAA tournament.

AU makes its fourth straight appearance — and sixth in the last seven years — in the D-III regional at 7:30 p.m. Friday when it faces Calvin College in Dubuque, Iowa.

This group of AU seniors have been on teams that have compiled a 69-18-1 record and won four straight Northern Athletics Conference championships. Yet they are 0-3 in regional play and have been outscored 7-1.

“We learned that it’s a hard road,” senior defender Britney Schenck said. “We have a pretty easy conference (NAC) that we play out of, but we’ve played some high-caliber teams outside the conference and we know we have to be at that caliber too.”

Actually, the Spartans are at that level.

Not only are they 19-1-1 overall with both the loss (2-1 to Illinois Wesleyan) and the tie (1-1 with Elmhurst) being in overtime, they are ranked No. 9 in the country.

“I think this year we have the team with the confidence to get a few wins in the tournament,” senior defender Kaity Brough said. “Winning some of the games outside the conference will really help us when it comes time to win or go home.”

AU certainly has all the ingredients to advance.

They’ve scored 86 goals while allowing only 13 and have an offense that has speed, quickness and firepower. That offense is led by sophomore Nicole Wolfe (17 goals, 1 assist) and freshman Nicci Bermudes (13 goals, 7 assists).

They are from Southern California and play together on a club team when they’re home.

There are other weapons. Senior Raquel Rodriguez, a West Aurora High School graduate, has five goals and 10 assists and fellow senior Kaitlyn Crohan has seven goals and 10 assists.

Under the direction of first-year head coach Troy Edwards, the Spartans are always on the attack offensively while depending on junior goalie Liz Wong and defenders Brough, Schenck, junior Anya Vincenti and junior Jenee Lange (NAC defensive player of the year) to keep the other team off the scoreboard.

Calvin enters with a 15-4-1 record. The Knights have twice reached the D-III quarterfinals and are 7-3-5 in tournament play.

Freshman forward Taylor Ten Harmsel leads Calvin in scoring with 10 goals and four assists, while junior goalie Ashton Hearn has allowed just 14 goals in 19 games.

While Edwards is making his first trip to the women’s tournament, he does have NCAA tournament experience. He was an assistant coach at Wheaton College, his alma mater, and helped the men’s team win the NCAA championship in 1997 and take second in 1999.

“It feels great to be back in the tournament and playing in November,” Edwards said. “We knew heading into the season we had the talent. We’re playing with a lot of confidence. I think they come into this postseason with a different mentality.”

And, that mentality is what exactly?

“We learned how it feels to lose in the first round and we don’t want to do that again,” Schenck said.

An AU victory Friday night would send the Spartans to the championship game against the winner of Loras College and St. Scholastica.

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