BOWLING GREEN — The Bobcats’ season came to an end in the Mid-American Conference semifinals for the second year in a row with a 5-2 loss from Eastern Michigan on Friday night at Cochrane Stadium.
Despite outshooting the Eagles 18-11, Ohio could not finish its chances, something that has developed into a pattern this year.
The match started off even with both sides having chances early on. Eastern Michigan broke through 12 minutes in when Amanda Cripps poked a cross past goalkeeper Sydney Malham.
Ohio took control after conceding and leveled it up just six minutes later, when Alivia Milesky got on the end of Sydney Leckie’s cross and shot past Eagles goalkeeper Chelsea Abbotts.
The two teams didn’t find much separation, and the play showed it, with both having opportunities before Eastern Michigan took the lead for good with around 10 minutes left in the first half.
Malham made a good save on the initial shot, but the ball was headed a few times in the box before Kristin Hullibarger smashed it home on the volley for the first of her four goals.
She got her second a few minutes later on a back-post header to put the Eagles up 3-1 and sunk the Bobcats’ spirits going into halftime. Ohio thought it got a boost right before the half ended when it had the ball in the back of the net, but the goal was ruled back for offside.
Ohio outshot Eastern Michigan 10-6 in the first half and had three more shots on goal but couldn’t finish its chances. In many matches this year, the Bobcats have dominated play and outshot their opponents but have simply not been able to force the ball over the line, and that was the case again Friday night.
“We had more shots on goal that they did, but ours didn’t go in, and theirs did,” coach Aaron Rodgers said.
That has been too common for the Bobcats this season, and the point that they needed to convert their chances was driven home as Hullibarger completed her hat trick just over a minute into the second half. Ohio trailed 4-1, and any possible momentum it would have had coming into the second half was gone.
Ohio pushed numbers forward and tried to get back in the match, only for the Eagles to all but end it 15 minutes into the second half when Hullibarger scored her fourth of the night.
Ohio was able to get a goal back with 20 minutes remaining when Milesky scored her second of the match. The Leckie-Milesky connection has been on display recently, with the two also combining for Ohio’s second goal against Western Michigan in the MAC quarterfinals on Nov. 3.
The Bobcats seniors have consistently performed in the biggest moments this year, and the program will miss them immensely.
“Words can’t describe how much they’ve meant to this program,” Rodgers said. “All the seniors played hard tonight. They gave everything they had, and I’m proud of them.”
With the seniors having played their final match, the Bobcats must now turn around and begin to prepare for a season in which they look to take the next step under Rodgers and make it to the MAC finals. The disappointing end to this season will be fresh in their mind, and they will be hungry for more success next year.