NOTRE DAME, Ind. - SIUE turned in a major upset in the first round of the NCAA Division I Tournament, advancing on penalty kicks 5-4 over No. 11-ranked Notre Dame.
SIUE became only the second Ohio Valley Conference team ever to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Former member Samford advanced on penalty kicks against Vanderbilt in 2005.
Needless to say, SIUE's first advancement in the NCAA Division I Tournament is something for which to get excited.
"They have every right to be," said SIUE Head Coach Derek Burton. "They worked really hard tonight. I couldn't be more proud of the effort, and the overall mental ability of our team is at a really high level. I am proud of them."
SIUE goalkeeper Juli Rossi picked up the shutout with eight saves. Many of her saves were leaps to the left or the right, sprawling every inch of her 5-foot, 7-inch frame to keep the Irish from scoring.
"You run out of words. What can you say?" asked Burton. "She was all over the place. She made two saves in PKS. She made countless saves flying from one post to the other. She was unbelievable tonight so hats off to her. She kept us in the game when things were looking bleak."
With no scoring despite a 21-3 shot advantage for Notre Dame, which ended its season in the first round with a 13-3-5 record, it was an unusual sight for the home team that has been to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 24 seasons and has three national titles in women's soccer.
SIUE turned in its third shutout in the last four games. Along with Rossi, Burton credited the Cougar defense.
"They stood tall," he said. "It's three seniors and a junior – three captains all on the back line. They're leading us in terms of our temperament and our mental ability and are showing us the way."
But the Cougars matched and bettered their effort from two seasons ago when SIUE went to penalty kicks in 2014 at Kentucky only to watch the Wildcats advance.
This time it was Mariah Vollmer who hit the winning penalty kick for the 10-7-5 Cougars, which play next week in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. SIUE's next opponent will not be announced until Saturday evening when the rest of the first round has been completed.
Both teams made their first two penalty kicks with Cory Levels and Peyton Roehnelt successfully scoring. Rossi put the Cougars up by saving a shot by Notre Dame's Katie Uhler. After Becca Jostes scored for the Cougars on a ball that was initially saved by Notre Dame goalkeeper Kaela Little but slipped away and into the goal, the tide turned back the Irish's way when Taylor Reynolds missed her shot.
Avery Anderson tied it up a 4-4 with her PK. Rossi then stepped in for the biggest save of the night on Notre Dame's Cindy Pineda. That left Vollmer, who had not seen one second of playing time during the 110 minutes of play, to score and give the SIUE a signature decision.