Aalbue’s OT goal tops No. 22 Benedictine

ATCHISON, Kan. – JJ Aalbue played the part of hero as Grace’s women’s soccer team topped No. 22 Benedictine 1-0 on Saturday.

The No. 19 Lady Lancers (16-4-2) shut out the Ravens to win the NAIA Opening Round bracket. Grace beat Friends on Friday and Benedictine on Saturday to reach the final 16.

The last 16 teams will play at the final site in Orange Beach, Ala., from Dec. 2-7. Grace’s first game in Alabama is Dec. 3 against No. 3 UNOH.

Aalbue netted the game winner in overtime for her 17th goal of the season.

Grace started Saturday’s match on the right foot, advancing deep into Benedictine’s half of the field consistently. Sacia Hanson was a threat on each side of the field.

But Grace did not score but had one shot from Cassidy Wasson and three corner kicks in the opening 10 minutes.

The match settled into a predictable rhythm after Grace’s early burst. The Lady Lancers were content to build possession, keeping control of the ball for the vast majority of the half.

The Ravens (16-6) were limited to three shots before halftime as Grace controlled the run of play.

Alexis Larimore and Corinne Villalobos tried shots in the final six minutes to no avail. Larimore split two defenders in the penalty box, but her sliced shot went high of the goal.

The match entered halftime scoreless with Grace holding a 5-3 advantage in shot attempts.

The Saints had their best chance of the game shortly after halftime; off a corner kick, Benedictine headed a shot off the crossbar.

A few minutes later, Grace nearly scored. Joana Schimmel set up Wasson with a pass, but Wasson’s shot was saved at the near post.

Hanson and Schimmel each had shots three minutes later as the game opened from end to end.

Aalbue provided a consistent threat in the half, moving the ball aggressively into the Saints’ end. Liz Van Wormer and Adelee Gartner also gave Grace a spark off the bench late in regulation.

But neither side was able to score, sending the match into overtime.

Six minutes into the first overtime session, Wasson found space on a direct attack. But her attempt was saved.

Grace won the match a minute later. Aalbue juked a defender inside the penalty box and fired off a left-footed shot that found the back of the net in the 98th minute.

Bethany Blackwood made six saves to record the shutout win in goal. She was protected well by McKenna Cruz, Lea Moessinger, Hannah Tkacz and Anna Kuhl.

Grace has now reached the NAIA round of 16 for the second time in program history. The Lady Lancers are making their third trip to NAIA Nationals.