Grace’s women’s soccer team moved one step away from its first national championship, dispatching Houghton 3-0 on Friday at NCCAA Nationals.
The Lady Lancers (17-4-3) will square off with Lee in the NCCAA National Championship on Saturday at 5:45 p.m. in Grace’s first title game appearance. Lee defeated Campbellsville 3-0 in the other semifinal match on Friday.
“I thought it was a very complete performance from us. We got a lot of production out of a lot of different people. Getting in and out of possession was very good for us. We were good when we were out of possession defensively, which actually created the two opportunities at the end,” said Grace head coach Michael Voss. “The girls will be ready [tomorrow]. This game was very physical, but it didn’t take it all out of them. They’ll be ready to go.”
Houghton started the game with energy, firing two shots in the opening minutes. But the half soon evened out as the teams got adjusted to each other. Grace began to flex its possession muscles midway through the half, maintaining pressure on the Highlanders’ half of the field for long stretches of play.
Grace’s possession produced a number of shot opportunities, including first-half attempts from Holly Bennett, Meredith Hollar and Jordan Hairgrove. The best chance of the half for the Lady Lancers came in the closing five minutes. Heather Martin’s cross was flicked on at goal by a header from Kaitlan Wiles, but Wiles’s attempt was saved from close range.
Similar to Grace’s first two games at NCCAA Nationals, the Lady Lancers came to life in the second half – this time with three goals.
The first goal came off the left foot of Carianne Sobey. The junior midfielder faked a move into the middle of the penalty box, beat her defender to the left and then fired the game’s first goal at the 59:17 mark.
Mallory Rondeau continued her torrid pace with Grace’s second goal 14 minutes later. Rondeau scored from a similar angle to Sobey’s goal on the left side. She has now scored in every match of NCCAA Nationals and has four goals and an assist in three games.
Rondeau nearly had a second goal on the left side, but her low shot was denied by the goalpost.
Sobey added an assist to her tally for the match late in the contest. A short corner resulted in Sobey’s low pass to Maile Grout, and Grout seized on the opportunity by blasting her shot inside the right post to make the score 3-0.
Abby Schue picked up her third shutout of the tournament and 14th of the season as Grace’s goalkeeper. Meredith Matson, Faith Voehringer, Heather Martin and Erica Manchess limited the Highlanders to nine shots in the semifinal match.
Grace’s win on Friday also gives the Lady Lancers 17 victories on the season – tying the program record for wins in a single season (17-5-3 in 2012).