Loss leaves CMU women scrambling for playoff spot
Colorado Mesa’s women’s soccer team had an opportunity Friday to take control of its own destiny.
Now, the Mavericks’ RMAC tournament hopes are more dire after a 1-0 loss to No. 21 Fort Lewis at Walker Field.
The Mavericks (6-11, 5-8 RMAC) are tied for the seventh with Adams State (6-5-6, 3-4-6 RMAC). The Grizzlies host Colorado Mesa in the regular-season finale Sunday afternoon in Alamosa.
The winner needs some help to get the last RMAC spot. If it’s the Mavs, they need New Mexico Highlands (9-5-3, 7-5-1 RMAC) to beat or at least tie Regis (7-7-2, 5-6-2 RMAC) on Sunday.
“Potentially, if Highlands and Regis tie, we can still get in with a win, but then it comes down to goal differential in the tiebreaker,” CMU coach Erin Sharpe said. “With a win and a Regis tie, we have to win by three.
“Now, it’s do or die, and we need help.”
Mesa was shut out for the fourth time this season and is 1-9 when the opponent scores first this season.
“It’s hard to come back when you’re behind,” Sharpe said. “We’ve done it before, but it’s tough against a team like this. They are a great team.”
Fort Lewis (14-3, 10-3 RMAC) has a chance to finish in second place in the RMAC and get a first-round bye in the RMAC tournament with a win in its regular-season finale Sunday.
“We haven’t won here the last two years, we’ve drawn,” Fort Lewis coach Damian Clarke said. “It’s a tough place to play. Realistically if we didn’t win tonight, we had no chance at second place. Now we’ve got a shot.”
Mesa had a great opportunity to grab a 1-0 lead when the Mavs peppered the Fort Lewis goal in the 28th minute. A Monica Carlos header hit the crossbar, bounced right back to her, and she headed it again, but Fort Lewis goalkeeper Caitlyn Espinosa secured the ball.
“They’re feisty,” Clarke said of Mesa. “Erin has a bunch of girls that play with a lot of heart. I thought we were pretty darn lucky to get out of it without being down (a goal). They were fantastic in the set pieces today.”
A few minutes later, the Skyhawks scored on a rebound off a shot that hit the post.
“That was very tough,” Sharpe said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t take more shots in the first half, especially when they were looking into the sun. That was a great opportunity. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck on your side, and unfortunately that shot (by Carlos) hit the post, and their shot hit the post and went in. Sometimes that’s the way the ball bounces.”
The Skyhawks’ Sam Weiss took a shot that hit the right post and bounced back to Ashley Kniffen, who blasted the ball past Mesa goalkeeper Sarah Schnetzler.
“It was our left outside back that found the ball off the post,” Clarke said. “For us to get that many players into the attack and the left outside back to be on the opposite side of the field, I’m pretty happy with it.”
The Mavericks are 1-7 when trailing at halftime.
Fort Lewis controlled play in the second half, outshooting the Mavericks 6-2.
“I think we had a very good first half,” Sharpe said. “We very much held our own. I think we may have had more dangerous opportunities in the first half. In the second half, they took advantage of the sun. Sarah Schnetzler had a phenomenal game.”
Schnetzler made five saves. Fort Lewis took 14 shots, six on goal.
“Schnetzler is the real deal,” said Clarke, a former Mesa assistant soccer coach. “I felt comfortable about the opportunities we were having, and she made saves.”
Mesa had seven shots, three on goal. Carlos took all three shots on goal.