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Former Sailor plays for title

Soccer player's college team falls just short of winning

Soccer player Jessica Fritz knows the feeling that comes from winning a championship in tie-breaking penalty phase.

In May 1998, she was a freshman on the only Steamboat Springs soccer team to win a state title. She remembers the thrill of defeating the Palisade Bulldogs after 80 minutes of regulation play, two overtime periods and a nerve-wracking shootout that ended in Steamboat’s favor.

Memories from that spring day came rushing back to Fritz last Saturday as the University of Puget Sound took on Wheaton College (Ill.) in the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship, which was played at Macpherson Stadium in Greensboro, N.C.

Once again, the championship game came down to penalty kicks. Unfortunately, when the weekend’s shootout came to an end, Fritz’s Puget Sound team trailed by one goal (5-4) to the new National Champion, Wheaton College from Illinois.

“I think we are still in a state of shock,” Fritz said Wednesday. “I don’t think it has set in that we were playing in the national title game or that we came that close to winning.”

Fritz said the game against Wheaton was a battle from start to finish and, as expected, the statistics from the game reflect two evenly matched teams. Both squads finished with 15 shots on goal, so it was no surprise that the game was tied at one goal apiece after regulation. Puget Sound’s Elizabeth Pittman scored on a header 36 minutes into the game after getting an assist from Cortney Kjar. Wheaton came back to tie the game at 61 minutes, when Mary Doleshal scored on a hard shot from 20 yards out.

“It was a great game,” Fritz said. “Both teams wanted it so bad. Winning would have been awesome, but losing that way was so much harder.”

Fritz was part of the Puget Sound team that advanced to the quarterfinals in her sophomore year. She studied abroad her junior year but returned to the team this season for her senior year.

Fritz said she would always remember the emotion of Saturday’s game, the expression on her teammates’ faces when Wheaton scored the game-winning goal and the drive she felt during the championship game.

“It’s amazing what you can do when you want something so bad,” Fritz said. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t win, but not with our effort.”

–To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com


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