Lady Lancers fall short in CL title game

SPRING ARBOR, Mich. – Grace’s women’s soccer team was unable to secure its first Crossroads League Tournament title after losing 3-0 at No. 2 Spring Arbor on Saturday.

The offense for the No. 13 Lady Lancers (18-3) picked up momentum too late in the match, allowing the Cougars (17-1-1) to earn the automatic bid to NAIA Nationals.

The loss means Grace will need to await its postseason fate. The Lady Lancers will likely play in a national tournament, either as an at-large invitee to the NAIA National Championships or to the NCCAA National Championships.

The Lady Lancers are currently the No. 13-ranked team in the NAIA Top 25 with an 18-3 record. Grace’s only losses are on the road to teams currently ranked in the top 10 of the NAIA.

Grace absorbed SAU’s attack for the first portion of the opening half, but SAU still went ahead midway into the half. The Lady Lancers were intercepted in the midfield, and the Cougars countered directly up the middle to score at the 22:04 mark.

Corinne Villalobos tried Grace’s first shot 25 minutes into the contest. Her 20-yard shot forced a diving save by SAU’s goalkeeper.

Four minutes later, Sacia Hanson tried another long shot that was saved.

Grace proved most dangerous when the team found Joana Schimmel in space. Schimmel’s speed and craftiness threatened the Cougars on several occasions.

SAU entered halftime ahead 1-0 as Grace stayed within striking distance.

During Grace’s first foray into SAU’s territory in the second half, Hanson had a ricocheted shot that hit the side netting.

Grace attacked five minutes later. Schimmel received a pass on the left edge of the penalty box. She dribbled to a central position and tried a shot that resulted in a diving save.

The Cougars doubled their lead almost immediately on a counter. SAU’s Bethany Balcer netted her second of the match on a long-range effort with 30 minutes to play in regulation.

The Cougars capitalized on a defensive lapse to score their third goal as the Lady Lancers thought they had caught SAU offsides.

Grace’s offense seemed to find its rhythm in the minutes after SAU’s second goal, but the Lady Lancers were unable to find the back of the net.

Kristen Bellinger had a pair of free kicks from just outside of the penalty box. Her first try was blocked, and her second effort skimmed just wide of the goalpost.

With seven minutes to play, Bellinger sent in a long free kick which bounced multiple times in a dangerous position. But Grace was unable to find a clean look at a shot.