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Grace’s rally falls short in NAIA Opening Round

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s women’s soccer team came up short in the NAIA Opening Round, losing 2-1 to No. 20 Eastern Oregon.

Shelby Fort had Grace’s lone goal as the Lady Lancers were unable to finish off a late-game comeback at 1st Source Bank Field.

The Lady Lancers’ season is not over yet. Grace will advance to the NCCAA National Championships in Kissimmee, Fla., which start Nov. 26. Grace will find out its bracket and opponents in the coming days.

Eastern Oregon shocked Grace early. The Mountaineers (16-2-2) capitalized on a defensive miscue, and Taylor Boyer struck a long shot just beyond the reach of Bethany Blackwood for the opening goal at the 3:22 mark.

Grace recovered quickly and had several opportunities. The Mountaineers nearly committed an own goal, and the Lady Lancers (18-4) also had a pair of corner kicks in dangerous positions.

Jenni Phillips and Corinne Villalobos each tried low shots that were saved.

EOU doubled its lead late in the half, only seven minutes before halftime. Kaitlyn McLeod tried another shot from outside the penalty box, slicing her attempt inside the far post at the 37:58 mark.

Grace entered halftime behind 2-0. The Lady Lancers outshot EOU 12-5 and had a 5-0 edge in corner kicks over the first 45 minutes.

Grace was dangerous almost immediately into the second half. Kristen Bellinger tried a long free kick that was destined for the upper-90, but EOU’s goalkeeper made a leaping save.

Not long after, Allison Vroon was saved near the top edge of the penalty box. Anna Kuhl stepped up and tried the free kick, but her hard effort was also saved.

The Mountaineers continued to absorb Grace’s pressure, content to counterattack and trust their goalkeeper. The Lady Lancers stayed on EOU’s half of the field for most of the second half, holding possession and looking for holes in the Mountaineers’ defense.

Grace finally broke onto the scoreboard in the final 10 minutes. Phillips was fouled as she advanced toward EOU’s goal, drawing a penalty kick. Shelby Fort stepped up and blasted the PK past the goalkeeper in the 82:04 mark.

The Lady Lancers attempted to complete the comeback over the final frantic eight minutes, but Grace came up empty.

Villalobos had the only shot attempt of the last eight minutes. She made a weaving run through the middle of EOU’s defense, and her curling shot was saved.

For the game, Grace outshot EOY 21-7. The Mountaineers directed six of their seven shots on goal. The Lady Lancers also had an 8-1 advantage in corner kicks.

Phillips, Kuhl, Liz Van Wormer, Bellinger and Joana Schimmel each shot three times, and Villalobos had two shots on goal.

Saturday’s game was Grace’s second time hosting an NAIA Opening Round match. Grace earned the spot as the No. 15 seed after winning the regular season championship of the Crossroads League.