National Qualifier: Overtime win sends WolfPack women’s soccer team to its first NJCAA Championship


Photo Provided by Madison College Athletics

The Madison College women’s soccer team celebrates winning the NJCAA Division III District D Championship.

Bailey Ayres, Sports Editor

Barely a minute into overtime, Esther Noriega delivered a game-winning goal to send the Madison College women’s soccer team to national tournament for the first time in school history.

Noriega scored off a corner kick just 34 seconds into the overtime period, giving Madison College a 2-1 victory against Anoka-Ramsey Community College in the NJCAA District D title game on Oct. 28 in St. Paul, Minn.

“It was a nice opportunity to score the game winning goal,” said Noriega of what was her 12th goal of the season. “… It definitely boosted my confidence.”

After Noriega’s goal, she and her teammates gathered in celebration.

“When Esther scored, we all came together in one big circle and everybody was crying, hugging and cheering,” said striker Britt Schumann. “It makes you really feel for each other, and you just realize how much everybody loves each other.”

Madison College coach Matt Schwartz credited his team for the way it fought back, especially after falling behind 1-0 in the first half.

“It was very exciting, it was a really hard-fought game. I was happy that our kids were able to fight through,” said Schwartz. “The fact that it went into overtime, I think, made our players more determine to go harder and to win.”

Anoka-Ramsey scored its goal just past 35 minutes into the first half. Madison College responded about 12 minutes into the second half, when Breanne Kreklow scored her fifth goal of the season.

Madison College’s defense also came through, limiting Anoka-Ramsey to just eight shots in the game. Goal keeper Brandie Gospodarek making four saves throughout the game. The WolfPack outshot their opponent, 27-8, in the match.

The NJCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship will be held in Dryden, New York on Nov. 9-11. Madison College is the fifth seeded team in the eight-team tournament and will play fourth-seeded Delta College (Michigan) at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 9.

The players are looking forward to the experience.

“It is going to be really cool,” said Noriega. “It is really cool that my first year here I get to go to nationals and I get to experience that.”

Schwartz expects his team to continue playing as it has all season – a season that has brought a 15-1-2 record and the first North Central Community College Conference title in team history.

“(I’m) looking for consistency to keep our run going,” Schwartz said. “This is a team full of fighters, they don’t give up.”

For their part, the players are enjoying the success that comes from hard work.

“It feels really good, because we worked really hard and I think we deserve to go to nationals,” said Kreklow. “I am really proud about how far we come.”