Lewers’ Last-Second Goal Gives Panthers Thrilling Win
Kelly Lewers scored with just 23 seconds left on the clock to lift the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women’s soccer team to a thrilling 4-3 victory over Oakland University in the Horizon League Tournament Championship Sunday afternoon at Engelmann Stadium.
Milwaukee (10-8-1) came back from deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before taking their first lead of the match in the final seconds of the game, defeating Oakland (10-9-2) for the second time in just nine days.
The Panthers have now won six-straight Horizon League Tournament titles and 10 overall. They will now advance to a school-record sixth-straight NCAA Tournament.
“The match was reflective of our season; we just keep fighting and keep playing and keep doing what we’re doing and I’m proud of the team for doing that,” Milwaukee head coach Greg Henschel said. “The match wasn’t going to be any other way. Oakland really brought a great effort to us and a great level of competition. They should be proud of what they achieved this year and how well they played in this match.”
After Oakland jumped on the board just 76 seconds into the match, the Panthers battled back and scored with just 28 seconds left before halftime. Freshman Maria Stephans took a feed from Callie O’Donnell inside the box, spun around her defender and fired near post for her second goal of the year.
The Grizzlies were able to bounce back though, finding the back of the net just 1:29 into the second half to regain the lead.
Once again, UWM fought back and was able to find the equalizer in the 63rd minute. Stephans slotted the ball into the box to find Krissy Dorre. The junior took one touch with her right foot before curling the ball with her left around the goalkeeper and into the back of the net for her 10th goal of the season.
From there, the game took a frantic pace.
Natalie Fettinger was called into goal for Milwaukee after starter Paige Lincicum was knocked out of the match with an injury. The junior saved the first five shots she faced in the game, but a Sarah Reynolds headed home a rebound in the box at the 81:37 mark to give OU the late lead.
As they have done seemingly all season, the Panthers again battled back. Amy Kauffung launched a long ball for the streaking Kelsey Holbert, who was able to just get a foot on it before the on-coming keeper to knot the game up at 3-3 at the 86:25 mark.
With momentum clearly on their side, Lewers took a feed from Holbert inside the box and the Horizon League Player of the Year perfectly placed it far post to give UWM the exhilarating win.
“Kelsey got a ball and she just chipped it over the last defender,” Lewers said of the final goal. “I was just in the right spot at the right time and I just shot it far post like we’ve been working on all year and it went in. I was pretty surprised to see that it was in the back of the net, but it was in.”
Added Henschel: “If you lived with our team from January 1st to this moment, everyone would understand why there is so much fight in this group. Those four goals and what was achieved today had a lot more to do with nine months of work versus what happened in today’s game. You have to be in it everyday to really understand what happened today and I’m just really proud of the team for going through those last nine months, if you will.”
Lewers was named the tournament MVP for her heroics and was joined by Dorre, Holbert and Stephans on the all-tournament team.
Milwaukee outshot Oakland in the offensive contest, 21-16, and held the edge in corners, 4-2. Fettinger and Lincicum combined to make nine saves on the day, while Oakland’s keeper registered five saves.
The Panthers now await their NCAA Tournament fate. The selections will be made live on NCAA.com at 3:30 p.m. central time. Details for the team’s selection show viewing plans will be released later this evening.