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Long Time Coming: Robert Morris’ women’s soccer set to host elusive home playoff match vs Wright State at Montour Junction

Robert Morris women’s soccer program clinched its first-ever playoff spot in the Horizon League on Wednesday when defeating Youngstown State, 2-1.

With the win, the Colonials moved into fourth place in the league standings.

With the playoff set up in the Horizon League taking the top six teams, Head Coach Chris Shaw’s team’s hard work and persistence to get through the season after a strong start has paid off — as they’ll host the First Round League Tournament match at Montour Junction on Sunday, at 1 p.m.

“We’re so excited for this team. They have been fantastic all season and definitely deserved to be playing in the postseason,” Shaw said after beating its regional league rival, which boasts numerous players from Western Pennsylvania.

“We had some great individual performances tonight but this was a team win tonight. This whole team contributed to this result. Our bench was amazing with their enthusiasm and cheering. I honestly believe we would not be where we are without their positivity and support from the sideline.”

It’s the second time in the program’s 30-year history, they’ve qualified for the playoffs — and Sunday’s match at AHN Montour Junction Sports Complex, located in Coraopolis (moved due to anticipated weather conditions).

Under Shaw’s direction, which coincided with the Colonial’s start of play in the Horizon League (switching from previously playing in the Northeast Conference), the program has progressed the past couple of years, and now, finally reaching postseason play in the Horizon League for the first time since becoming a member in 2020.
The progress the Colonials have made under Shaw, although incremental at times, is evident. They won just one match in the truncated 2020 season, having joined the Horizon League prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but followed that up with six wins in 2021 before last year’s high-water mark. Still, after a promising 5-0-3 start by the 2022 Colonials gave way to a disappointing finish that saw their season end on a five-game losing streak and with seven defeats in their last ten matches
This season, the Colonials also opened the season unbeaten in its first eight, but more importantly, they finished with only two losses in its final seven matches to secure a post season berth.
Throughout an action-packed season filled with awards and program records, this 2023 roster and staff have accomplished new heights.

  • Scoring 35 goals this season is the second most in a campaign for the Colonials. 25 years ago, in 1998, RMU totaled a program-high 36 goals.
  • With 11 wins now, the team has tied their program-best 11 wins. They did so in 2011, posting an 11-8-1 overall record.
  • Recording seven goals and seven assists, sophomore Renae Mohrbacher (Freedom High School) reached 21 points in her second college season. Her 21 points are tied sixth best in program history. Katie Dugan back in 2002 owns the RMU record of 33 points (14g, 5a) in one season.
  • Mohrbacher along with Hayashi both dished out seven assists. This number is the second most ever recorded in the program’s lifespan. Angela Story, also a member of the 2002 squad, tallied eight assists. Midfielder Elisa Corvalan is right behind her teammates with six assists this year.
  • After beating Youngstown State, RMU added another win to their record of five Horizon League conference victories in one season.
  • The Colonials were awarded a Player of the Week on four separate occasions, receiving the most in one season since joining the HL.

Shaw has built the program with a combination of local players, and others who come from outside the Pittsburgh region, including team captain, midfielder Kaoru Hayashi who was named to the All-League First Team. She is the first player to do so in program history in the HL conference.

In the year, Hayashi registered three goals and seven assists. In her career, the captain from Ama, Japan owns 13 goals and 15 assists totaling 41 points. Also, she earned the Sportsmanship Award for being an example on and off the field.

The heart of the roster though, has plenty of players from the Pittsburgh region.

The Colonials boast a strong lineup of former WPIAL stars including:  sophomore Emerson Johngarlo (Kiski Area), sophomore Jillian Marvin (Peters Twp / Beadling), junior Carson Bogan (Upper St. Clair / Beadling), sophomore Malia Kearns (Penn-Trafford), Senior Haliegh Finale (South Park), sophomore Renae Mohrbacher (Freedom), freshman Madie Jesih (Gateway), freshman MacKenzie Pritts (Yough), senior Kristi Kania (Moon), sophomore Paloma Swankler (Norwin), junior Emily Rocco (Upper St. Clair), sophomore Julie Heh (Bethel Park) and sophomore Maria Veiga (North Hills).

Matching up with Wright State

Wright State, located in Dayton, Ohio, finished their 2023 regular season schedule with a 6-6-5 overall record and 4-3-3 record in conference games.

The Raiders have performed well on home turf as they’re 5-1-2 back home, but are 1-5-3 on the road. Offensively, senior Lauren Borchert and graduate Kaylin Helinski own the most goals and points with three strikes in net and one assist each, reaching seven points on the year. The duo also both own two game-winning goals on the year. Junior midfielder Olivia Mace dished out four assists in 17 games, leading the roster in that category. Defensively, freshman defender Kaitlyn Eyink on the back line holds the most minutes played this season for the Raiders out of all field players, timing in at 1,267 minutes. Between the posts, senior goalie Kiera Sarka played in all 17 games for Wright State. Through the campaign, she holds a 1.47 G.A.A. and .796 save percentage. She’s made 86 saves total with five wins and six total clean sheets.

Last year, Wright State finished 8-7-3 overall and 5-2-3 in Horizon League competitions. Their season concluded with a 1-2 loss against Youngstown State in the HL Quarterfinals. Statistically, Marcella Sizer led the team in points, recording six goals and three assists on the year. Sophomore Olivia Mace owned the most helpers, passing out six assists. In goal, Jessika Seward started and played in all 18 games. She earned three clean sheets and made 71 saves.

Match Notes: 

  • All-Time Series Between RMUW & Wright State: In program history, these two teams have met six total times. The first two matches came back in the mid 90’s. Both squads didn’t play again until RMU entered the Horizon League conference in 2020. Recently, in October of 2021, the Colonials beat Wright State, 2-1. Kaoru Hayashi recorded a goal and assist, getting involved in both goals on the day. Last year in 2022, the score flipped and the Raiders won, 2-1. Earlier in the 2023 campaign, RMU’s offense dominated, pounding in four goals and winning, 4-2 against the Raiders (9/26). On that day, sophomore Malia Kearns made history in the program, scoring all four in the game. Her four goals and eight points in one match is a program record. She was then named Offensive Player of the Week by the Horizon League.
  • Sunday’s game will be played at the AHN Montour Junction Sports Complex, located in Coraopolis, Pa. Tickets are $5 per person and students with a student ID can watch the game for free.
  • For the quarterfinal round, the #4 Colonials will host the #5 Raiders and at the same 1:00 p.m. start, #3 Northern Kentucky hosts #6 Detroit Mercy. The winner of each game will advance to the semifinal round of the tournament. Whichever winner has the higher seed, they will go on to play #1 Milwaukee on Thursday, November 2 at 1:00 p.m. CT. The lower seed will play #2 IUPUI on the same day at 4:00 p.m. CT. On Saturday, November 4 at 1:00 p.m. CT, the two semifinal winners will kickoff in Milwaukee for the Horizon League Championship title.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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