No. 5 seed Goshen (Ind.) (25-8) shocked the tournament field Friday morning, after a 84-66 upset victory over No. 1 seed Saint Xavier (Ill.) (29-3). Tyra Carver and Jo’Mani Thomas led the Maple Leafs with 18 and 19 points apiece. Kara Krolicki led the Cougars with a game-high 20 points on 6 of 27 shooting.
The victory was not only the first ever national tournament victory in program history, but it was the first national tournament victory by Goshen College team across all sports.
“That was the definition of an upset, I’ll take it and I’ll own that pretty proudly,” Goshen Head Coach Stephanie Williams said. “We’ve been through so much. In four years we had to turn this program around.”
Entering Friday’s game, No. 5 seed Goshen College and No. 1 seed Saint Xavier were coming off completely different games. The upstart Maple Leafs from Goshen needed a game-winning three-pointer from junior Lynnia Noel with 5.3 seconds left to take down last year’s national runner-up, Concordia University (Neb.), to earn the first-ever tournament win in program history.
On the other side of Friday’s matchup, No. 1 seed Saint Xavier (Ill.) felt virtually no pressure in their opening round game, cruising to a 86-58 win over No. 8 seed Tennessee Wesleyan. Kara Krolicki dominated throughout and scored 29 points on 12 of 22 shooting.
“They outplayed us, but we didn’t have our ‘A’ game,” Saint Xavier Head Coach Bob Hallberg said. “Our All-American player didn’t shoot the ball well and we went away from the game plan.”
After losing to Saint Xavier 69-82 on 12/29, Goshen switched the defense gameplan and it worked for them on Friday.
“What we had to do was make an adjustment and not blanket them so much,” Goshen Head Coach Stephanie Miller said. “We did a better job of help containing off help side defense and they got shots, but they had to rush them a little more.”
Goshen took it to Saint Xavier in the first half, as they held the Cougars to just 31% from the field and 13% from three-point range on 2 of 15 shooting. Perhaps more importantly, the Maple Leafs uncharacteristically limited Krolicki to 12 first half points on 3 of 17 shooting from the field and 1 of 10 from behind the arc. The Cougars supporting cast struggled in the first half as well, with the next leading scorer finishing the half with just five points.
The Maple Leafs dominated nearly every statistical category in the first half. Goshen shot 44% from the field, 46% from behind the three-point line on 6 of 13 shooting, outscored Saint Xavier 18-12 in the post and their bench outscored the Cougars’ bench 20-5.
Noel led the Maple Leafs with 10 first half points, while Liz Tecc and Carver added eight and nine points of their own. Goshen held a 45-32 lead at halftime.
The third quarter featured runs from both teams and ended with a zero in third quarter point differential for both teams. Sophia Sears connected on a three-pointer three minutes into the half that put the Maple Leafs up 14. Krolicki answered with her own three, and after a Leyden rebound and basket the lead was down 11.
Goshen outscored Saint Xavier 20-15 in the fourth quarter and refused to surrender the lead they had built early in the game.
For Goshen, it was something about today that just felt right.
“Today, we woke up and the kids were relaxed…I knew they were confident,” Miller said. “The coaches were like ‘it just feels good. It just feels like it’s our day.’ And here we are.”
Goshen moves on to face No. 3 seed Dakota Wesleyan in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 1 p.m., after the Tigers dropped No. 2 seed Davenport 87-77.