Purdue rolls to Big Ten title in St. Paul

The Boilermakers nailed down the championship with a win over Ohio State.

Nick Gerhardt

The Purdue Boilermakers steamrolled their way to the Big Ten women’s soccer tournament championship this weekend when they defeated Ohio State 3-1 behind the play of their senior class and an emerging star sophomore.

In the title game Purdue jumped out to a 2-0 advantage in the first half as senior midfielder Shauna Stapleton consistently set her teammates up perfectly for goals.

In the eighth minute, Stapleton sent a corner kick toward the 18-yard box and senior defender Kira Bilecky headed it home into the lower right corner for a quick lead.

In the 24th minute Stapleton found junior forward Jessica Okoroafo around the top of the 18-yard box where Okoroafo let loose a left-footed blast that found the upper left corner for a 2-0 lead at half time.

Ohio State looked fatigued after playing in overtime in consecutive games but showed their tenacity when they scored in the 67th minute off a corner kick to cut the lead to 2-1.

But the talent and roster depth were too much for the Buckeyes as sophomore Loredana Riverso scored her fourth goal of the tournament with a header into the right side of the goal to give the Boilermakers a 3-1 championship win.

“We’ve had depth this year,” head coach Rob Klatte said. “That’s one of the things that helped propel us through this tournament.”

Experience and depth played integral roles in the success of the Purdue Boilermakers and their run to the Big Ten women’s soccer tournament this weekend at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Purdue has 13 seniors on their roster and eight start on a regular basis.

“It’s certainly a culmination for all the hard work they put in for four years,” Klatte said.

Already without senior forward Jill Sarbaugh due to a knee injury, the Boilermakers lost leading scorer senior Parrissa Eyorokon in the first round of the tournament.

“It was devastating to lose both those players but we were here for a reason and that was to win,” Riverso said.

Although just a sophomore, Riverso provided the depth the team needed when they lost two seniors and her efforts made this championship special for the 13 seniors on the team.

“It’s so exciting to win the tournament. We’ve come a long way since our freshman year,” Stapleton said.

Ohio State played their way to the tournament final by defeating Indiana 2-1 in overtime on a goal by Ashley Bowyer in the first round.

Then in the semifinal round the Buckeyes took an 1-0 in the second half against Penn State and watched that lead disappear as the Nittany Lions stormed back for two goals to grab a 2-1 lead with 11 minutes remaining in the game.

But Ohio State would not go quietly as they found the equalizer in the 85th minute when Carla Arbulu scored.

The match went into overtime again and Buckeyes’ keeper Lauren Robertson denied Penn State strikers Aubrey Aden-Buie and Katie Schoepfer to push the game to a decisive penalty kick round.

Robertson, who led the Big Ten in saves, continued stymieing the Nittany Lions when she made one save in the penalty kick round for a 5-4 advantage that sent her team to the championship game.

Purdue meanwhile dominated opponents Thursday and Friday en route to the championship match.

In the opening round match the Boilermakers lost Eyorokon, 2007 Big Ten offensive player of the year, for the rest of the season against Northwestern.

The Wildcats struck first in that game when Kelsey Hans scored from 20 yards out.

But the depth and experience of Purdue proved too much for Northwestern as they rallied for a 3-1 victory.

The Boilermakers drew a matchup with Illinois in the semifinal round.

The Illini, without 2006 Big Ten player of the year Ella Masar, did not provide much of a challenge for Purdue.

Loredana Riverso and Shauna Stapleton each scored in the first 15 minutes of the game and Jessica Okorafo added a second half goal to glide to a 3-0 win and a place in the championship game.