Wichita, Kan. – St. Mary’s women’s soccer is one step closer to punching its ticket to the Heartland Conference tournament, playing golden in a clutch goal from Leah Snelson in double overtime that sealed the must-win, 1-0 victory over Newman University Saturday.
In a tight race to advance to the tournament, the Rattlers (9-7, 3-5 in conference) had to win against the Jets (5-9-1, 2-6-1 in conference), who are just one spot and one game behind the Rattlers, who are holding at the cusp of the top four seeds necessary to venture on to the postseason.
The Rattlers will secure their place depending on the outcome of two of the Jets’ final games, as Newman losses to the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded St. Edward’s University and Dallas Baptist University teams would enable St. Mary’s to advance without winning another game. A St. Mary’s hot streak would make things even easier.
Saturday was anything but a given for the Rattlers, however, as they faced a hard battle against the Jets. It was dangerously close to ending in a tie if not for Snelson (Jr., Dallas) connecting in the 107th minute in double overtime.
As time peeled down to just three minutes left in the 0-0 contest in double overtime, quick work from Kaitie Kasperitis (So., Corpus Christi, Texas) found Snelson, who connected for her eighth goal and second game-winner on the season.
Kasperitis’ first assist on the season may very well have clinched the Rattlers’ chance at the title.
With her game-winner Saturday, Snelson is now tied with Leia Kirch (Sr., Carrollton, Texas) in goals. Kirch was absent from the Jets’ field due to a red card received in the Rattlers’ loss to Oklahoma Christian University on Thursday.
St. Mary’s clutch performance was not only handed to the Jets with sharp looks and an accurate foot but also a stiff defense that limited the Jets to one shot throughout each overtime. Keeper Paola Ostos (Jr., El Paso, Texas), the reigning Heartland Conference Defensive Player of the Week, cranked in her second shutout with three saves.
The Rattlers had seven shots on goal to the Jets’ three, with golden-goal Rattler Snelson leading with three shots on goal followed by her sister, Emilie Snelson (Sr., Fairview, Texas), with two. Kasperitis had one shot on goal along with Katy Belew (Jr., Corpus Christi, Texas).
Only two games remain for the Rattlers in the regular season against the No. 8 and No. 14 nationally ranked and top conference holders, the Hilltoppers and the Patriots, respectively.
St. Mary’s will first take on rival St. Edward’s University Thursday in Austin, Texas at 1 p.m.