Thanks to two upset victories in last weekend’s Midwest Conference Tournament, the Lawrence University women’s soccer team is headed to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001. The third-seeded Vikings (9-8-1, 6-2-1 MWC) had to defeat both the second-seeded Lake Forest Foresters and the top-seeded Carroll Pioneers to advance. Both games came down to the wire, but Lawrence’s defense held strong to secure the victories. One key to victory in both the semifinal match and the championship was the play of prolific goalscorer Mallory Koula. Koula, a junior forward who recorded a hat trick in the final game of the regular season, matched that effort in the semifinal against Lake Forest. After only three shots, she had remarkably notched a hat trick. Despite Koula’s strong performance, the Vikings still found themselves fighting a heated battle to beat Lake Forest (11-8-0, 7-2-0 MWC). After Koula’s first two goals, junior Natalie Jin scored to give the Vikings some breathing room at 3-1, but back-to-back goals by the Foresters left the score tied until the final 10 minutes of regulation. Koula then delivered the game-winner in the 84th minute, sending the Vikings to the championship match with a 4-3 victory after their defense held the line for the final six minutes. With the right to play in the national tournament on the line, both Lawrence and Carroll came out firing in the championship match. All three goals of the match were scored within the first 19 minutes. Carroll’s Sarah Tennant scored just 51 seconds into the game, and the Pioneers looked poised to repeat their regular-season shellacking of the Vikings. However, Lawrence’s defense settled down, holding strong for the remaining 89 minutes and keeping Carroll from scoring again even though the Pioneers brought on extra strikers near the end of the game. Koula answered the Pioneers’ early goal with one of her own in the sixth minute, then gave the Vikings a lead with another goal in 19th minute. Senior captain Sarah Ehlinger assisted on Koula’s first goal, though the second goal was more notable – it was her 19th of the season and, amazingly, her fifth of the two-game tournament. Sophomore goalkeeper Cassie Burke made 11 saves, allowing only the one early goal. She also won the mental battle with Carroll star Cody Callender, forcing a miss on a penalty kick late in the game. Burke’s defense held strong in front of her, even when Carroll added more strikers in a late attempt to tie the game. With the 2-1 victory, the Vikings won their first Midwest Conference championship since 2000. The NCAA tournament bid is their first since 2001. The opening game for Lawrence will be played against Wheaton College at 5 p.m. Friday. Wheaton earned an automatic bid into the tournament with an 18-2-1 record. The winner of the opening round match will face either Augustana College or Carleton College in the second round.