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Ava Schmitt's 85th minute goal was the difference (photo by Stella Cheng)
Ava Schmitt's 85th minute goal was the difference (photo by Stella Cheng)

Schmitt's Late Goal Sends CMS Women's Soccer Through to SCIAC Championship

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Ava Schmitt broke a 1-1 tie with a goal with just 5:12 remaining in regulation as the third-seeded CMS women's soccer team took a 2-1 win over second-seeded Cal Lutheran in the SCIAC Semifinals on Wednesday evening at William Rolland Stadium.

With the win, CMS improves to 9-5-6 on the year and moves on to the SCIAC Championship game, when it will travel to top-seeded Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday.  Cal Lutheran slips to 9-5-5 on the year and will be left hoping for an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.

The game-winning goal came when CMS crossed the ball from near the left sideline. Cate Lewison battled for the ball with a Cal Lutheran defender and it rolled across the top of the 18-yard box. Schmitt ran onto it, and one-timed a shot into the side netting inside the right post to send CMS through to the championship game.

Lewison gave CMS its first lead when she blasted in a 20-yard shot in the 56th minute, dribbling laterally outside the top of the penalty area and then cracking a left-footed shot into the upper-left corner with 36:28 left in the contest. The lead lasted less than a minute, though, as Isabella Veljacic got on the back end of a Danielle Vis cross and one-timed a shot from inside the top of the six-yard box to level the game up at 1-1, just 41 seconds after Lewison had given the Athenas the lead.  

CMS had the better of the chances after the game was tied, and nearly took a lead in the 66th minute when Lewison made a run down the right sideline and drew a corner kick. The Athenas had a header on the ensuing corner that Cal Lutheran goalie Logan Duford tipped off the crossbar. The loose ball fell to Lewison, who volleyed it towards the empty net, but Duford made a second save, reaching up while lying down after making the first save. In the 79th minute, Lewison created another quality chance, when she made a turn in the right corner and sent a low cross through the middle of the box, but Sam Ree's header missed just wide of the left post.

The game entered intermission tied at 0-0 after each team had a couple of strong scoring chances in the first 45 minutes. The Athenas had the better of play over the first 25 minutes, turning the corner up the right side on three occasions for dangerous crosses from Lewison and Riley Zitar. Helfrich volleyed one from the top of the six yard box that missed just wide, and Caelyn Smith got on the back end of another for a header that missed over the bar.

Over the latter part of the first half, though, the Regals had a couple of chances deep inside the CMS penalty area. Veljacic had an open net from the top of the six-yard box, but the cross was a little bit behind her, and she popped the ball over the bar as she reached her foot back for it. Vis then got on the back end of a long ball in behind the CMS defense, but Sadie Brown came off her line and deflected the shot wide for a corner kick.

In the first minute of the second half, Cal Lutheran nearly took advantage of a quick counter, but Olivia Tuffli came through with a big defensive play, making a desperation slide tackle inside the CMS penalty area, deflecting the ball off Vis' leg and over the crossbar for a goal kick.

CMS finished with a 15-6 edge in shots, and a 9-3 advantage in shots on target. Duford had seven saves for the Regals, and Sadie Brown had two saves for the Athenas.

CMS and Pomona-Pitzer met one time earlier this season, when they played to a 0-0 tie at Pomona-Pitzer. The championship game will also feature a battle between two head coaches who were part of the same staff. CMS head coach David Nolan, in his first season with the Athenas, was the former associate head coach at Pomona-Pitzer under Jen Scanlon, with the program reaching the NCAA Division III Final Four in 2019.