MOUNT PLEASANT - Central Michigan scored two goals in a span of 1:15 and held off a rally by Akron Sunday to advance to its fourth-straight Mid-American Conference tournament semifinal, 2-1.
The Chippewas (15-2-3) will square off versus rival Western Michigan Friday in Toledo, Ohio, while the Zips (7-9-2) see their season come to an end.
Junior Ashley Mejilla, the team's leading goal scorer, found the back of the net just 4:55 into Sunday's contest, scoring her fifth goal of the season from 20-yards out. Mejilla dribbled through the UA defense to just outside the 18-yard box on the right side, and fired the shot over the head of Akron goalkeeper Jeny Wolbert into the top left corner for the 1-0 CMU lead.
Just 1:15 later, senior Chelsi Abbott extended the Chippewas' lead to 2-0 with her third goal of the season on yet another long shot over Wolbert's head. After an errant kick by Wolbert, Abbott collected the ball and chipped a shot from 30 yards out over the keeper's head for what turned out to be a very important goal.
"I thought it was really important for us today to score early, as it would be in any playoff game," said head coach Neil Stafford. "What was really important and created those chances was the pressure we put on Akron in the beginning of the game. Overall, I am very happy with the result, but disappointed we took our foot off the gas today."
The Zips fought back and cut their deficit to one in the 40th minute of the contest, as the Chippewas allowed just their second goal of the season at the CMU Soccer Complex. Senior Jordan Clark crossed a ball into the box where fellow senior Rachel Phillip corralled the ball and fired a shot past junior goalkeeper Stefanie Turner for a 2-1 score at halftime.
Clark had a chance to tie the game in the 85th minute, as the Zips looked for a desperation goal to keep their season alive, taking a shot from 20 yards out that just sailed over the crossbar.
With time running out, the Zips had one final chance when Adrienne Steckel played a ball over the top of the CMU defense, looking for a streaking Katie Wise. Senior Liesel Toth was able to beat Wise to the ball however, clearing it back to Turner, who held on to the ball until just before time expired.
"Chelsi Abbott was by far the player of the match," Stafford said. "She was outstanding with her demeanor and the way she managed the game. Her maturity on the ball, playing for throw ins, putting pressure on backs, popping up in areas to make things difficult for defenders and her movement off the ball was exceptional. Not too far behind, Kaely Schlosser had a great game for us. When we talk about defending, we really started to defend up top today and those two led the attack."
Abbott led the way for the Chippewas, putting pressure on UA from her forward position all day with six shots, three of which met Wolbert. Schlosser also fired three shots in the contest.
Turner made four saves in net for the Chippewas over the 90 minutes, earning her 11th victory of the season. The 11 wins are the fifth most by a goalkeeper in a single season in CMU history.
A game time for Friday's semifinal match versus the Broncos has not been set. Be sure to check back to CMUChippewas.com this week for a complete schedule of the semifinal and championship contests to be held in Toledo, Ohio, Friday and Sunday.