HOUGHTON - In a hockey-crazed area like the Copper Country, Michigan Tech fans know the difference a hot goalie can make in a tight game.
And Sunday, despite the sub-40 degree weather and consistent rain, Ohio Dominican's Laura Clark was on fire.
The Tech women's soccer team had its winning streak stopped at eight with their first non-victory in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after Clark turned away 11 shots in a 0-0 draw.
Ohio Dominican goalie Laura Clark punches the ball away from Michigan Tech’s Lexi Herrewig during Sunday’s game at Sherman Field. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
The Huskies failed to convert on two penalty kicks - one in the late second half and the other in the second overtime period - that would have kept their record perfect in conference. Instead, Tech sits 8-0-1 with a date at second place Grand Valley State (7-1-1) that will give the winner a strong upper hand for the GLIAC title race and privilege to host the postseason tournament.
"They have all taken them in their lives and they know it is a tough, high pressure situation," Tech coach Michelle Jacob said. "Their goalie did a great job to save them, so I give her a lot of credit. We missed a lot of other opportunities too."
Junior midfielder and Tech's co-leading scorer Lindsey Van Rooy stepped up to take the first penalty try - earned after a Lexi Herrewig cross was handled in the area - and shot hard left. Clark guessed correctly and punched the shot away, but Tech fullback Melanie Hoffman charged on the rebound. Clark was able to bounce up in time, however and smothered a weak dribbler from Hoffman.
Van Rooy then earned another penalty in the second overtime, drawing a foul on a tricky step-over in the box, and this time midfielder Janelle Riedl stepped up to the spot.
Riedl tried a different tactic, sidefooting a shot to the right corner, but Clark read (or guessed) perfectly and turned it harmlessly away. They were the first two penalty kicks of the season for Tech.
"She just stepped up and took and we are comfortable with that," Jacob said of the change between Van Rooy and Riedl. "We are confident that anyone of our players can take it and it just didn't work out for us."
Dominating possession once again, the Huskies kept Clark busy all game, directing eight other shots at her and putting six corners into play.
The aggressive keeper, now with an 8-4-3 overall record, punched away every corner close to her goal and wasn't caught off guard on any shots from distance.
"Their goalie is a great goalie," Jacob said. "I think we took a lot of good shots, maybe a couple that were too eager, but our forwards and their runs really created a lot of good things, but we just struggled to finish. Just didn't finish today."
With both fullbacks heavily involved in the attack as the Huskies searched for a game-winner, Tech did concede two decent chances to the Panthers, but much like her counterpart, keeper Jenna Phelps was ready for both.
The freshman recorded her second consecutive clean sheet with three total saves, including a sigh-of-relief leg save in overtime after Ohio Dominican's Megan Augusta freed herself with a quick turn in the box.
"She stepped up for us and we needed it," Jacob said. "She did her job for us."
Other than those two opportunities, Tech's backline kept the ODU forwards bottled up, drawing seven offsides and clearing every long ball attempt. Speedy center-half Kaitlyn Boelter was particularly impressive keeping runs in check.
"She did and I think it was our whole backline today," Jacob said. "MacKenzie (Jordan) and Kaitlyn were so consistent and strong. They don't give them a lot of (room) that's for sure."
Jacob removed sophomore forward Danna Kasom from the game in the 83rd minute after Kasom received a yellow card for a foul along the sideline.
Tech missed Kasom's pace and on-ball creativity as they kept striving to break the nil-nil draw.
"She got fouled and the refs missed it and it was kind of an unfortunate thing," Jacob said. "In a game like this, there is a lot of adrenaline and excitement and we just thought it was time to make a change."