SPRING ARBOR, Mich. – Despite doubling up No. 6 Spring Arbor in shots, Grace’s women’s soccer team could not find the back of the net in the 2014 Crossroads League Tournament championship.
The NAIA 17th-ranked Lady Lancers (13-4-3) gave up a goal on a scrum in the penalty box early in the first half and never struck back, falling 1-0 on Saturday.
Grace will still have a shot at qualifying for NAIA Nationals as an at-large invite, but they will have to await the release of the 32-team field on Sunday evening.
The first 10 minutes of the match belonged to Grace as the Lady Lancers rattled off four shots with two corner kicks from the onset. Mallory Rondeau fired a shot into the side netting, and Heather Martin took a hard shot from distance.
But the Cougars (18-1-1) scored on their first corner kick of the match in the 17th minute. Spring Arbor sent a cross into the penalty box and scored on the ensuing loose ball.
The remainder of the first half was evenly played as each team had their fair share of offensive opportunities.
The second half was a different story altogether. Grace outshot Spring Arbor 6-0 in pursuit of an equalizing goal, dominating time on the ball and passing its way around the Cougars’ defense.
One of Grace’s best chances of the game came 10 minutes into the second half. Kaitlyn Hayes laid off a perfect leading pass to Meredith Hollar, whose line-drive shot forced a diving save.
Hollar broke free of a defender a few minutes later from 23 yards out and rifled a hard shot at Spring Arbor’s goalkeeper, and Rondeau also split two defenders at the right edge of the 18-yard box to take a shot attempt.
But the Cougars’ defense held firm in the face of Grace’s possession attack, shutting out the Lady Lancers. Grace went scoreless for only the second time this season and first time since Sept. 20.
“The women played really well today,” said Grace College head coach Michael Voss. “We settled into a rhythm and ran hard at SAU with possession-attacking futbol. We had a few really good creations that resulted in quality looks at frame. “I’m proud of the effort, attitude, unity and fortitude. Had we been fortunate to benefit from a whistle here or there it may have helped. Overall the women put in a quality performance today.”
Hollar and Martin took four shots apiece to lead Grace and three of Martin’s shots were on goal. Abby Schue made four saves while surrendering a goal in 90 minutes tending Grace’s net.
If Grace does not earn a spot at NAIA Nationals, the team will shift its focus to qualifying for NCCAA Nationals with a potential regional game next week.