Coming into Sunday afternoon’s game down midfielder/co-captain Madelyn Buckner and leading goal scorer Paige Jarsombeck, the Creighton women’s soccer team already had an uphill battle to overcome against visiting Montana. Then, with just a little over four minutes gone in the first half, senior forward Lauren Cingoranelli went down with an apparent knee injury. She appeared to catch her foot on the turf trying to make a cut near the Creighton sideline, and she went down holding her knee. She was helped off the field by the Creighton medical staff and did not return.
Without Cingoranelli and Jarsombeck, who had combined for the seven goals and four assists entering the match, the Bluejay attack struggled in the first half. The Jays managed just three shots on goal in the first 45 minutes, and were held scoreless in a half at home for the first time in five games. Fortunately for the Jays, freshman keeper Danielle Rice and company kept Montana off the board as well before halftime.
The Jays (6-2-0) came out of the locker room determined to attack Montana from the outset in the second half, and they did just that. Creighton took four shots on goal and had two corner kicks in the first five minutes of the second period. Despite Creighton’s early attacks, Montana goalkeeper Kendra McMillen was up to the task, stopping shot after shot and keeping the high-powered Creighton offense off the scoreboard. Then in the 67th minute, Grizzly midfielder Stephanie Carl gave her keeper some support. Carl gained possession in the box and placed the ball in the lower left corner to give Montana a 1-0 lead late in the second half.
“It was just a bit of a sloppy play,” said Creighton head coach Bruce Erickson, “[Carl] got just through, and it seemed like it happened in slow motion, because I saw the serve come in and it kind of pin-balled around. Then it just wound up in the net. It’s something we’ll look at on tape, because it was a bit unfortunate.”
Creighton didn’t let that goal discourage them, and they went back on the attack, determined to push one across. That determination would pay off with 3:21 remaining in the second half. Montana (2-3-3) failed to effectively clear out a Bluejay corner kick. Sophomore Alyssa Jara flipped the ball over her head to teammate Kyla Booker, who deflected it into the net with her back to the goal to tie the score in the 87th minute to send the game into overtime.
“I didn’t even know [Booker] was behind me,” said Jara, “I just kind of kicked hoping someone would be there and score. Luckily, my roommate and my favorite teammate got it. I was really excited she scored. I didn’t even know she kicked it, I thought she headed it in.”
After having a late goal taken away from her in last Sunday’s 6-1 win over Idaho, Booker was happy that this one counted.
“This one was amazing. I was just there at the right time,” she said. “There was three minutes left and I knew I just needed to get a flick on it or something. Alyssa flicked it over her head, and I held my run right on the line where the last defender was. I flicked it over the keeper’s head with the outside of my foot.”
In the first overtime the Jays continued their aggressive attack. In the 94th minute sophomore Kirstyn Corder headed home the golden goal to give Creighton a 2-1 victory and extend their winning streak to six games. Corder’s header came off a deflection when a Montana defender got a piece of freshman Lauren Sullivan initial shot.
“It was a cluster of us,” Corder said, “‘Salsa’ (Alissa Kohmetscher) beat her girl, crossed it over, then ‘Sully’ headed it, then I headed it… it’ll be interesting to see it on video, but it was a great feeling. Whatever we can do to get that win.”
Sullivan couldn’t provide any clarity on the game-winning goal, but she echoed her teammates’ excitement.
“Honestly I was asking them after the game ‘what exactly happened?’,” she said. “Like ‘Q’ said it was just a cluster. I remember ‘Salsa’ beat her girl and I was like I have to get on the end of this. I have to get something on it, and just try to make something happen. I think I got it with my leg, and I just remember ‘Q’ ran in and barely touched it and I saw it going over the line. I didn’t know for sure if it was in, then I heard the whistle, and was just like, ‘Yes!’”
Corder’s game-winner gives her a team-leading five goals on the season, the same amount she scored in 19 games as a freshman for New Hampshire last season. Creighton’s sixth win in a row is already twice as many victories as they had all of last season, but it’s a bittersweet victory after what happened to their senior leader Cingoranelli early in the game.
Head coach Bruce Erickson didn’t have an official diagnosis on the injury, but he wasn’t optimistic based on how it looked.
“I don’t think it looks good,” he said. “I think more than likely it’s season-ending. It’s a shame because she’s been through it before when she tore her ACL before she got here. We’ll just have to hope.”
Booker replaced Cingoranelli after the injury, and despite her heroics late in the second half, she became noticeably upset while talking about her mindset after Lauren went down.
“I didn’t feel any extra pressure. I just wanted to make her happy,” she said. “It looked kind of serious. When you have a teammate that you love and care about that goes down like that you’re concerned and you want to come in, make a difference, and win the game for her.”
Cingoranelli, a senior from Aurora, Colo., is currently third on the team in goals (3) and leads the team with four assists. The Jays will find out more about her injury this week as they prepare for their final non-conference game of the season, an in-town clash with the UNO Mavericks set for this Friday at 7 p.m. from Morrison Stadium.