Senior day showdown: Four teams fight for two spots in Big East Tournament


Alec Farley | The DePaulia

DePaul came into the game on Sunday in a precarious situation, a must-win game game against Villanova and senior day on their minds.

With only two games left in the regular season, four teams found themselves separated by only a point for the last spot in the Big East tournament starting next week. The Blue Demons knew coming into this game, they faced a must-win game if they hope to have any chance of playing in the tournament.

After a hard-fought 90 minutes, the Blue Demons prevailed 1-0 against the Villanova Wildcats to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“I thought we set the tone early in the match,” Head Coach Erin Chastain said. “I thought we played a really nice first half. We knew the second half would be tough with just a one-goal lead, and a heavy wind.”

After seniors Franny Cerny, Madeline Frick, Vanessa Nigg, Elizabeth Parrilli, as well as, redshirt junior Avery Hay were honored in a pre-game ceremony, the Blue Demons turned their focus on beating the Wildcats. In the first half, DePaul played like a team who knew their backs were against the wall and needed all three points.

The Blue Demons controlled the entire first half generating 12 shots, but for 44 minutes weren’t able to break through on the score sheet, until a moment of brilliance from sophomore forward Jade Eriksen-Russo. With 41 seconds left in the half senior, goalie Mollie Eriksen played a long ball forward to Russo who cut inside inside the box onto her left foot and curled a shot into the top corner, out of the reach of the Wildcats goalie.

“The forwards had a lot of high pressure, Franny (Cerny) did a great job of pressing up top,” Russo said. “I got a piece of the ball and was able to it take to the goal and score.”

Russo recently returned to the team after being injured and after the game she said she was happy to be back on the field, and even happier to score the game winner.

“The goal felt really good,” Russo said. “It has been a while since I’ve scored and it’s a feeling I can’t describe right now.”

DePaul took a 1-0 lead into halftime knowing that the next 45 minutes were going to be crucial for their playoff hopes. The Wildcats who looked a step behind for the entire first half, responded in the second half by creating more chances, but never forced Eriksson to make any important saves.

The second half turned into a much more physical affair, the Blue Demons got two yellow cards within the first 15 minutes of the second half. DePaul did a good job of suffocating the Wildcats attack by getting numbers behind the ball and recovering the ball in good areas.

“I’m happy we grinded out a 1-0 win and to also record a shoutout,” Chastain said. “Especially on senior day we are so proud of our seniors and their accomplishments. Everyone stepped up to show how important they are to us and the program.”

The team knew how important this game and senior forward Franny Cerny described after the game that she and the rest of the team didn’t want the season to end today. Even though they were excited to have their families with them and celebrate their success, Cerny and her teammates put it all out on the field.

“Today’s (Sunday) game was extremely important,” Cerny said. “I think we all knew that if we don’t come away with a win it could be the end of our season. So, it was important to get a win.”

The Blue Demons will turn their attention to the regular season finale on Thursday against St. John’s. DePaul will come into that game sitting on 11 points and have a chance with a win to sneak into the six-team playoff.

Last season the Blue Demons entered the final game of the regular season in the exact same spot, needing a result against St. John’s and came away with a 1-0 win on a game-winning goal from Cerny in the 43rd minute.

“I think it’s going to be important we don’t have away to many looks defensively on Thursday,” Chastain said. “The last two games our defensive effort has been really good, so if we can keep that going that will help us against St. John’s.”