Grace breaks record in win over IWU

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s women’s soccer team beat Indiana Wesleyan 1-0 on Wednesday for the team’s ninth-straight win.

With Wednesday’s win, the Lady Lancers (13-1, 5-0 Crossroads League) broke the program record for the best start in Grace’s history. Grace’s nine-game winning streak is the team’s second-longest, trailing only the 2009 squad that won its first 10 matches.

Grace is tied atop the league standings with No. 1 Spring Arbor. The Lady Lancers and Wildcats (9-4, 3-2 CL) are both “receiving votes” in the NAIA poll.

Grace was poised to score in the first half against IWU. In the fifth minute, a well-worked attack resulted in a low shot from Allison Vroon that went wide.

Two minutes later, Sacia Hanson sent in a perfect cross in front of the goal. Jenni Phillips’s volley went just above the crossbar.

The go-ahead goal came in the 8th minute. Vroon dribbled to the left edge of IWU’s penalty box. She found Phillips in space, who then cleverly led Corinne Villalobos with a pass. Villalobos calmly slotted her shot past the goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead.

Grace didn’t stop attacking at that point. Minutes later, Phillips split three defenders with a run. Her low shot beat the goalkeeper but slid wide of goal.

The teams entered halftime with Grace leading 1-0.

Heavy rains started almost immediately in the second half, greatly affecting play. Both teams struggled to connect in possession, resulting in sloppy, physical action.

IWU’s Tia Sanford had a shot at the top of the box, coming after a slip by the Lady Lancers, but Bethany Blackwood made a sure-handed save.

Not long after, Hanson made a weaving run from the left side of the field, angling in with a hard shot that forced a diving save.

With 13 minutes to play, Grace nearly struck again off a counterattack. Clair Snodgrass made a run almost from box-to-box and squared a pass to Riley Koch, but Koch’s looping effort went high.

The remainder of the match was a scrappy affair as teams battled the slippery surface. Neither team was able to find the back of the net, although both squads had chances in the waning minutes.

Blackwood, the reigning NAIA National Defensive Player of the Week, had eight saves for yet another shutout. She now has 11 shutouts in her freshman season, tops in the NAIA. She was protected well by defenders McKenna Cruz, Anna Kuhl, Brooke Kohler, Kristen Bellinger and Aubrey Feipel.

The Lady Lancers are at home again versus Mt. Vernon Nazarene on Saturday. Kickoff at 1st Source Bank Field starts at 7 p.m.