Nationally-ranked Fort Lewis escapes with win despite scrappy UCCS effort

By Doug Fitzgerald published October 23, 2009

In all sports, but in soccer particularly, the scoreboard tells only a fraction of the story.

Erika Shisler punched in a loose ball with just under 14 minutes remaining as the No. 13-ranked Fort Lewis Skyhawks escaped Mountain Lion Stadium with a 2-1 victory over the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Friday evening.

And 'escaped' is an accurate term. The Mountain Lions went toe-to-toe with the nationally-ranked Skyhawks, giving as good as they got. Fort Lewis admittedly had an advantage in possession and outshot UCCS 34-13, but true scoring opportunities were surprisingly even. For each incredible save by UCCS freshman Kayla Millar, a Mountain Lion shot was equally dangerous - like Ashley Collins' breakaway in the 35th minute that hit the crossbar.

"It was a really good effort tonight; I thought we held the ball really well," said UCCS assistant coach Craig Decker in place of head coach Nichole (Rick) Ridenour, who was instead talking to a recruit.

"We had our chances," Decker continued. "We were just a bit unlucky on the two goals. The second goal should have been a clear. It just happened to bounce off a defender and land right at (Shisler's) feet."

Just 15:39 into the contest, the Mountain Lions managed something that only four other teams have done this season; they scored against the Skyhawks. Fort Lewis, led by a disciplined defense and the impenetrable Christine Schmelzle in goal, has logged an RMAC-best 11 shutouts this season, including six of its previous seven matches and three straight.

Lauren Hall ended that streak with a highlight-reel goal. Following a UCCS corner kick, Jessica Escobedo sent a low crossing pass to hall, who was standing in the middle of the field, 10 yards from the goal. The problem was that the junior from Fruita had her back to the goal and two defenders in the way. Instead of turning, Hall flicked the ball backward over her head, a maneuver that took Schmelzle - and everyone else - completely by surprise. The ball sailed over the stunned defenders and into the net.

"We had a good corner kick and it got popped back in and I was able to get a touch on it and flick it in," said Hall, who laughed when asked if she had a name for the circus kick.

Fort Lewis evened the match in the 28th minute when Sam Smith converted a crossing pass by Nichole Kluk.

The tie endured all the way to the 86:04 mark when Shisler's goal ended UCCS' hopes of an upset.

Millar made 11 saves for the Mountain Lions, some of which were jaw-dropping. Twice, she thwarted one-on-ones and on a third shot she threw herself at the feet of a Skyhawk who had a point-blank shot.

"She's become the keeper that we need; that any college team needs. Her reflexes, her maturity, talking to (the defenders) on and off the ball has been great," said Hall, the team's best marking back. "Her ability to step up when our senior goalie got hurt has been awesome. We could not ask for a better keeper. We're lucky to have her on our team."

Fort Lewis (15-2-1, 11-2-1 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) is equally lucky to have Schmelzle, who had six saves. Thanks in large part to the junior from Flagstaff, Ariz., the Skyhawks held onto second place in the conference standings. The top two teams in the regular season get first-round byes in the RMAC playoffs.

UCCS dropped to 6-8, 5-8 in RMAC play but remained prominent in the playoff picture. The Mountain Lions are tied with Mesa State for the sixth and final spot in the RMAC playoffs, two points behind Colorado Christian, with three games remaining.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Lauren HallLauren Hall22M/D
Jessica EscobedoJessica Escobedo6F/M
Kayla MillarKayla Millar2GK
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