By BEN JOHNSON
Scoring opportunities were plentiful in the second half. Yet, Northeastern State and Northwest Missouri State couldn’t cash in.
Luckily for the RiverHawks, a couple of first-half scores stood up as NSU held on for a 2-1 victory over the Bearcats at DeLoache Field on Tuesday night.
“Not a bad result,” NSU coach Chase Wooten said. “We wanted to come out and play, and I thought we did a good job of coming out in the first half and opening things up.”
With the win in the quarterfinals of the MIAA tournament, the No. 4 seed RiverHawks advance to play top seed Central Missouri on Friday in Warrensburg, Mo. The RiverHawks and Jennies will begin at 3 p.m. with Central Oklahoma and Fort Hays State to meet in the other semifinal clash.
The RiverHawks (13-4-1, 7-4-1 MIAA) moved within two games of the conference title thanks to a pair of goals in a 90-second span midway through the first half.
First it was Lizzie Cudjoe with her seventh goal of the season in the 20th minute. Cudjoe, a sophomore midfielder from Takoradi, Ghana, received the ball deep inside the box and managed to chip the ball past Northwest Missouri State goalkeeper Kelsey Adams.
“It wasn’t really a surprise to me [that I scored],” said Cudjoe, who was assisted by Lindsey Latta and Hisa Turner. “We just have to utilize our chances to score. It was a good chance and I made the most of it.”
Before the celebration ceased from Cudjoe’s third goal in NSU’s last three games, Latta fired a rocket to the back of the net to give the RiverHawks a two-goal advantage.
“The first goal was probably a little flukey,” Wooten said, “but the second goal with a quality goal.”
All the Bearcats could do was tip their cap.
“They’re a very good team if you let them have time in space,” Northwest Missouri State coach Tracy Hoza said. “We didn’t take away their time in space.”
The RiverHawks — who haven’t lost since Oct. 14 — would take a 2-0 edge into intermission against a Bearcat club that hadn’t score more than one goal since posting a 3-0 win over NSU on Sept. 28.
Northwest Missouri State, though, would put pressure on the RiverHawks in the final 45 minutes, peppering NSU goalkeeper Maggie Kloza with nine shots.
One of those shots managed to get the Bearcats back in the contest.
Elizabeth Walde managed to corral the ball in a crowd off a corner kick and beat Kloza for a Northwest Missouri State goal in the 57th minute.
“The second half, we changed our system up a little bit,” said Hoza, whose team fell to (8-7-3, 6-4-2) to end the season. “We just pressured them the whole second half.”
In fact, both clubs put pressure on one another. The RiverHawks recorded 11 shots in the second half, with Emily Voges missing two prime opportunities — one a point-blank shot on an open net and another on a shot that she missed high and left.
Voges wasn’t alone, though. Cudjoe was robbed of a goal by Adams with only 9:52 left to play.
“I thought we had four or five really good looks at their goal,” Wooten said. “Their keeper made a couple of good saves and we missed a couple over [the net], and those kind of haunted us a little bit and let them stay around.”
The Bearcats had chances to tie the game up, but Walde had the ball snatched away from her by Kloza with 20:20 left on the clock. Eight minutes later, Anna Holden was also denied by Kloza.
With the win, the RiverHawks kept their chances alive to qualify for the NCAA tournament. NSU currently sits ninth in the Central regional rankings and would have to move into the top six or win the MIAA tournament to qualify.
“Now, with two games left, I think we can plant the seed of trying to be conference champions,” Wooten said. “If we can take this one game at a time, we can get what we want.”
NSU 2, NW Missouri State 1
NWMSU 0 1 -- 1
NSU 2 0 -- 2
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Elizabeth Cudjoe (Lindsey Latta, Hisa Turner), 19:42.
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Latta (Cudjoe), 20:51.
NORTHWEST MISSOURI STATE — Elizabeth Walde (Victoria Von Mende, Anna Calgaard), 56:26.