SPRING ARBOR, MICHIGAN – The Grace College women’s soccer team’s sparkling run in the 2012 Crossroads League Tournament came to an end Saturday with a 3-1 defeat in the championship match to NAIA No. 7 Spring Arbor.
The Lady Lancers surrendered two early goals to the host Cougars and could not bridge the gap in their quest to win the team’s first league title.
“I’m really proud of the women today. They held together good composure and presented Grace and God in a worthy manner,” said Grace head coach Michael Voss. “Our program is very thankful for such a great following of superb fans. We really appreciate them traveling for us. This has been a very growing run at the NAIA’s for us this year. We are a better program for it.”
The Cougars (18-2-1) maintained possession in the early stages of the match, but Grace withstood the initial attack and began to find their rhythm.
Spring Arbor scored on an individual play from Karly Linton, however, in the 14th minute and added a second goal two minutes later off a corner kick to shock the Lady Lancers (15-4-2).
After a strong build-up in possession, Grace cut Spring Arbor’s lead in half at the 30:30 mark. Freshman defender Heather Martin fired a low driven shot at the Cougars’ net, which rebounded to Jocelyn Evans. Evans pivoted around a defender and calmly slotted her shot inside the far post.
With the goal, Grace picked up its attack and looked more comfortable on the offensive end of the field. Linton helped deflate Grace’s energy with her second goal shortly before halftime to put the Cougars back on top by two goals.
In the second half, Grace’s goalkeeper Carmen Barnhill made a pair of great saves from close range to keep the Lady Lancers within striking distance.
The Lady Lancers had a handful of chances to score again in the second half, including a breakaway for Carianne Sobey, but Sobey was pressured by a Cougar defender at the last instant, and her shot was saved by Spring Arbor.
Grace initiated a furious attack in the final minutes and produced two shots inside the penalty box and a corner kick, but the Cougars’ defense denied the Lady Lancers.
Holly Bennett and Lauren Becker led Grace’s attack with two shots apiece, and Barnhill made nine saves in goal for Grace.
The match had strong fan bases for both schools. Overall, the game included 34 fouls and 33 shot attempts. Spring Arbor was credited with a 25-8 advantage in shots.
“We’re blessed to be a part of two organizations. The NCCAA is fantastic,” Voss continued. “We will now rest and heal to pursue the NCCAA’s.”
Grace will turn their focus to the NCCAA National Championships and hope to earn their third trip in four years to Kissimmee, Fla. The Lady Lancers will host the NCCAA Midwest Region’s championship game on Saturday against the winner of Indiana Wesleyan and Cincinnati Christian. The regional champion will earn an automatic berth to NCCAA Nationals.