KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Top-seeded Grace College entered the 2014 NCCAA National Championships with high aspirations. The Lady Lancers’ soccer team did not disappoint on Monday, dispatching Shorter University 4-0.
The Lady Lancers (15-4-3) have one more pool play match remaining on Wednesday in pursuit of the team’s first national championship this week.
“This was a good first match for us. I was pleased with the production and composure from our whole group,” said Grace head coach Michael Voss. “It took a while to get a goal, but the women continued to improve throughout the match. This is the start we were looking to achieve.”
Grace gave the NCAA Div. II Hawks fits throughout the match, outshooting Shorter by 21. The Hawks (13-9) could not muster a single shot attempt over the final 68 minutes of play.
In the early minutes, Meredith Hollar passed to Mallory Rondeau from close range, but Rondeau’s low, hard shot was saved. A few minutes later, a nifty give-and-go combination from Kaitlyn Hayes and Rondeau gave Rondeau another golden opportunity, but her shot was again denied.
Midway through the opening half, Shorter had its best opportunity of the match. Grace goalkeeper Abby Schue tumbled over her own defender, leaving an empty net. But Heather Martin tracked back to block Shorter’s attempt.
Later in the half, Hollar earned a free kick 20 yards from the center of the net. Rondeau’s ensuing shot rocketed to the corner, but it was parried wide by the Hawks’ goalkeeper.
Hollar was fouled again in the penalty box, earning Grace a penalty kick. Carianne Sobey’s kick from the spot was slotted inside the post for a 1-0 lead.
The teams went into halftime with Grace ahead by one. The Lady Lancers outshot the Hawks 10-3 in the first half, but Grace was just getting warmed up.
The Lady Lancers assaulted the Hawks’ goal from the onset of the second half, tallying 14 shots after halftime.
Jordan Hairgrove and Rondeau teamed up for a 1-2 passing play, and Rondeau struck a first-time finish into the upper corner of Shorter’s goal from outside the penalty box. Rondeau’s goal in the 75th minute was her 15th tally of the season.
Seven minutes later Rondeau sparked Grace’s third goal when her shot attempt inside the penalty box was saved. The rebound fell to freshman Sabina Meyers who connected for her second career goal.
Grace’s fourth goal came on a combination attack from Kaitlyn Hayes and Sobey, resulting in Hayes unleashing a blast into the upper-90 with less than six minutes remaining. The assist was Sobey’s 10th of the season and program-best 37th of her career.
Overall for the match, Grace outshot Shorter 24-3 which included a 14-0 advantage after halftime. Freshman Abby Schue picked up her 12th shutout of the season in goal despite not having to make a save. The starting backline of Martin, Meredith Matson, Faith Voehringer and Erica Manchess held the Hawks in check.
Grace’s final pool play match takes place on Wednesday 2 p.m. against sixth-seeded Mid-America Christian. A win would guarantee Grace a spot in the national semifinals.