Pioneers score in final minutes to beat Bison in Summit League soccer championship
FARGO—If someone had told head coach Mark Cook midway through this season his North Dakota State women's soccer team would be playing for a Summit League championship, he wouldn't have believed it. The Bison started the year 0-8 and scored just one goal in that stretch.
After a midseason turnaround, Cook not only believed the Bison could make the conference championship, he thinks they should have won it.
Summit League tournament No. 2-seeded Denver's Angelica Pacheco scored the winning goal in the 85th minute to defeat No. 4 seed NDSU 2-1 on Saturday at Dacotah Field in the Summit League championship. The Pioneers advance to the NCAA tournament with their second Summit League title and first since 2013.
"I don't think the better team won today's game, which is really unfortunate, but that's the game of soccer," Cook said. "I'm proud of my team. I'll hold my head high knowing we gave everything we had."
Denver (11-8-1) struck first in the first half in 35-degree cold. Meg Halvorson passed to the left side of the net and Summit League offensive player of the year Jessie Dancy finished it off with a shot to the right corner of NDSU's net past the diving hands of Bison goalkeeper Monica Polgar. The goal was Dancy's 14th of the season as she went into the match 12th in the country in goals.
The Bison tied the match with a little over 7 minutes remaining. Denver goalkeeper Brittany Wilson was handed a yellow card on a play where she stopped NDSU's Britney Monteon on a breakaway. Monteon said her leg was hurt on the play, so the Bison huddled up to decide who would take the kick.
Roxy Roemer, who hadn't scored since 2015, was confident enough to volunteer. Roemer was given the penalty kick and while Wilson dove right, Roemer shot left and scored her first goal of the season.
"I just stepped up and said I would do it," Roemer said. "We had to score it. It felt great, late in the game to come back like that. It's a great feeling. It's disappointing they came right back at us, but that's the game."
About two minutes later, Dancy assisted Pacheco, who was voted the Summit League tournament's most valuable player, for the winning goal.
Wilson didn't face a shot on goal in the first half, but the Bison put five shots on goal in the second half to Denver's four total. Wilson, a second-team all-Summit League goalkeeper, ended the day with four saves. Polgar ended with two saves.
"We didn't think they were that dangerous in the first half," Denver head coach Jeff Hooker said. "But then in that last 5 minutes as players didn't step up and didn't respond as well, they started to get a few more chances."
The Bison (8-11) started the season 0-8 and didn't score a goal until their 5-1 loss to Colorado State at the end of that eight-match losing skid.
That match, Cook said, prompted him to change the system and the following wins made the Bison believe they could get to the postseason. The Bison went on a 7-1 winning streak during which they didn't lose a match at home to give them a 5-2 conference record to tie them for second in the Summit League.