GALLERY: Laumann goal sends NKU to Horizon League semifinals, 1-0

Matt Sexton, Sports Editor

All it took was one well-placed header and one outstanding late save Monday to send the NKU women’s soccer team to Milwaukee.

Kelsey Laumann headed home the game-winning goal as NKU advanced to the Horizon League semifinals with a 1-0 victory over Cleveland State at NKU Soccer Stadium.

NKU, the three-seed, will play two-seeded Oakland 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Horizon League semifinals. The top seed and host, Milwaukee, will play the night-cap against Wright State at 8 p.m. Semifinal winners will meet 7 p.m. Saturday in the championship.

Laumann headed home a Payton Naylor cross for the lone goal. Macy Hamblin started the play and picked up the second assist on the goal in the 58th minute.

“We were just keeping possession and finally got up the field,” Laumann said. “Macy had it in the corner, then Payton was able to get the cross off and I was there to finish … timed it right.”

For NKU Head Coach Bob Sheehan, the goal was the culmination of a well-executed strategy.

“I thought as the first half wore on, we started to gain some momentum,” Sheehan said. “We wanted to get into the wide spaces and serve balls in. It was nice to see that’s how we scored the goal. It was a great goal by Kelsey. Payton put a great service across the six and Macy put Payton in. All around, it was a great goal.”

While Laumann’s head put the Norse on top, goalkeeper Brooke Schocker’s hand kept them there.

Cleveland State fired a long shot seven minutes from full time. Schocker jumped and tapped the ball above the bar to keep the Norse ahead.

“The girl shot it and it was coming straight at me,” Schocker said. “We talked about with the coaches watching the ball all the way into my hand. I watched it, timed it. It was a little dramatic, but a save is a save no matter how it happens.”

Laumann lauded her goalkeeper and her outstanding save.

“She did well,” Laumann said. “That last save that she tipped off made me a little nervous to be honest. She was able to get it across. We have confidence in her.”

Sheehan also heaped praise on his keeper and noted the importance of the save.

“It was a big save at a critical moment,” Sheehan said. “If we go 1-1, momentum changes. For Brooke to tip the ball over the bar, was a huge save.”

Hamblin, who was named Horizon League player of the year and offensive player of the year Monday, led the Norse with six shots. Jessica Frey, also named to the first team, all-Horizon League, added three shots.

Oakland awaits the Norse in Milwaukee. Oakland defeated NKU 1-0 Oct. 21 in Rochester, Mich. Cleveland State had also defeated the Norse in the regular season.

“This night was definitely a redemption game for us,” Schocker said. “It meant a lot to us. Oakland is our second redemption. We lost 1-0, and we didn’t come out as hot as we wanted to. If we play against Oakland the way we played (Monday), there’s no stopping us.”

Sheehan believes that while avenging a loss will motivate his team, the chance to play Saturday night for a title is a greater motivating factor.

It’s going to be a challenge for us,” Sheehan said. “Anytime you lose to somebody and get another shot at them, that’s certainly motivation. Certainly as big a motivation would be the opportunity to maybe get to a championship match. That would be a pretty nice accomplishment for this program in our first year in the Horizon League.”