BRIDGEWATER – The Bridgewater College women's soccer team continues its quest for an ODAC championship Saturday afternoon when the Eagles meet Virginia Wesleyan in the first semifinal contest of the conference tournament.
The semifinal games match up four teams featured in the NCAA South Atlantic Region rankings. Lynchburg is the highest-ranked team at No. 3 with Virginia Wesleyan at No. 5, Bridgewater at No. 7 and Roanoke at No. 9.
"In my 10 years, this is the first time I can remember that all four semifinal teams were ranked in the NCAA regional poll," Bridgewater head coach Mike Van Horn. "I'm sure all four teams believe they can win the tournament and go to the NCAA tournament."
The Eagles will have to defeat the ODAC tournament's top seed in order to reach the championship game for the second time in program history. In the regular season, Virginia Wesleyan erased a 1-0 deficit to defeat the Eagles 2-1 in overtime.
"The last three or four years that's the way the games against Wesleyan have gone. They've been closed games," Van Horn said. "I think you have two evenly matched teams and either team could win that game Saturday."
Van Horn believes his team is ready for the weekend.
"I think they're in a good place," Van Horn said of his team. "They're not too high following the win over W&L. They're confident about moving forward in the tournament, but not overconfident. I believe they have the right mindset going into this game."
In the regular season contest, the Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute when Bailey Kratz sent a cross into the box and Keri Rager volleyed her shot into the right upper corner of the goal to put the Eagles on the scoreboard.
The Marlins scored the equalizer seven minutes later when Mia Meinhardt cleaned up a rebound from the middle of the box to tie the score at one goal apiece.
Just three minutes into the overtime, Zoe Traficante tallied the game-winner for the Marlins in the 2-1 victory.
The Eagles enter the contest with plenty of firepower to confront the Marlins. The two teams are tied for the ODAC lead in goals scored with 59 each in 20 games.
Keri Rager and Anna Sobus are tied for the ODAC lead in points scored with 32 each. Sobus leads the ODAC with 13 goals while Rager is tied for third with 11 goals. Rager is second in the ODAC in assists with 10. Bailey Kratz has eight goals and has been playing some of her best soccer late in the season. Kratz had the winning goal in the 1-0 victory over Lynchburg late in the regular season and she scored both goals in the 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Washington and Lee.
The Marlins will counter with their own high-scoring trio lead by Alex Davidson with nine goals and seven assists. Anna Pedicone is tied for third in the ODAC in goals scored with 11 and Marli Hayward has found the back of the net seven times.
On the defensive end, Bridgewater has allowed just 17 goals while the Marlins have allowed 21. Bridgewater goalkeeper Hayley Talbott is second in the conference with a 0.69 goals against average.