ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – A hallmark season for Grace’s women’s soccer team came to an end on Tuesday.
The Lady Lancers lost 3-0 to No. 3 Northwestern Ohio in the round of 16 at the NAIA National Championships.
The defeat ends the season for Grace with a record of 16-5-2; all five losses came to teams who are currently in the NAIA Elite Eight.
Grace qualified for the NAIA tournament for the third time under head coach Michael Voss. The Lady Lancers won two games in the tournament for the first time in program history.
During Tuesday’s game, both teams shot 10 times. But the Racers scored early and made their chances count to hold on for the victory.
Each squad had opportunities in the first minutes. During Grace’s first foray into UNOH’s end, the Lady Lancers produced a corner kick and an errant header from Corinne Villalobos.
Grace fell behind shortly after that header. In the eighth minute, the Lady Lancers struggled to fully clear from their defensive end.
The Racers (21-1) picked up the loose ball from 30 yards away from the goal and fired a long-distance shot that snuck past Bethany Blackwood’s gloves and inside the right goalpost.
With 20 minutes remaining in the half, Grace’s possession attack began to click. JJ Aalbue made a few threatening runs toward the Racers’ goal to no avail.
In the 29th minute, Taylor Fort came off the bench to provide the Lady Lancers’ best chance. Fort picked apart the Racers’ backline with a leading pass toward Sacia Hanson. Hanson’s 1-on-1 shot with UNOH’s goalkeeper beat the keeper but dribbled wide of the post to keep the score 1-0.
With five minutes remaining in the half, the Racers capitalized on another slow clearance to score in the penalty box.
UNOH claimed a 2-0 lead at halftime despite the Racers taking just five shots.
Grace started the second half aggressively, earning a corner kick two minutes into the half.
The Lady Lancers seemed to get stronger as the second half wore on. Grace possessed the ball well and defended effectively when the Racers tried to counterattack.
But Grace struggled to put a threatening shot on goal despite the significant edge in possession.
The Racers added an insurance goal with 16 minutes left, which effectively ended the match.
Grace did its best to rally. After a strong buildup, Liz Van Wormer tried a curled shot that hit the post.
Hanson was there for the rebound, and the winger fell down under pressure in the penalty box. But the appeal for a penalty kick was denied.
Aalbue had two more shots within the span of a minute that were each denied, and Joana Schimmel had a shot blocked.
The Racers’ defense held firm for their 14th shutout of the season; UNOH blanked Grace to extend the Racers’ winning streak to 17 straight.
Aalbue had three shots to lead Grace, and Hanson tried two shots. Grace and UNOH tied with 10 shots apiece; the Racers had the edge in shots on goal 8-3.
The loss ends the careers of graduating seniors McKenna Cruz, Van Wormer, Villalobos, Cassidy Wasson, Schimmel and Hannah Tkacz.