By Mike Deak
WINONA LAKE – “It’s what we worked for. It’s where we wanted to be, playing to win the last game.”
Grace College women’s soccer head coach Michael Voss was pretty blunt speaking from his home earlier this week. After a wild week before at the NCCAA Women’s Soccer National Championship tournament, his team had advanced to the furthest point it could in 2020. His team would eventually be given an opponent tougher than any soccer player in front of them.
The Lady Lancers would have to learn how to overcome their own minds.
In advancing to the National Championship game last Saturday, Grace had been rather dominant in its route. Back-to-back 3-0 shutouts of Warner and Erskine had Grace rolling. The Lady Lancers reached Saturday night with a huge challenge in front of it, facing Division II Dallas Baptist, a side that had lost just once since 2018. Grace was just 8-3-1 coming into the final, but were a product of COVID and all the issues it caused the program.
But a Leah Moessinger goal just two minutes into the championship had Grace in ‘finish him’ mode. A DBU equalizer, however, just into the second half played out into overtime.
“This really shaped up to be the game of the century,” offered Voss. “You had two sides that were not going to give in. We were playing the best football of our season, and we had them on the ropes, no doubt.”
Grace’s JJ Aalbue, who had missed the Crossroads League tournament due to COVID tracing, nearly ended it with a missile off a corner at the end of the first overtime. Her shot hit the crossbar as the clock expired. The All-American candidate nearly sent Grace into a euphoria.
Four minutes later, the program would hit rock bottom.
An own-goal in the second overtime ended the dream for the Lady Lancers, a 2-1 setback.
It was in those moments that followed that mattered most to Voss, who had to guide the team down two incredibly different paths in short order.
“It absolutely felt like we could have won. It felt like we were the best team in the country,” Voss stated. “This is, however, what life looks like. You can be incredibly excited for a moment, and then have to deal with it if that moment isn’t right. Now we had to live it off the pitch. How do you respect the moment? It is what it is.”
Grace stood and applauded Dallas Baptist on the national title, feeling as if it had truly played in a prize fight. It’s final days of soccer weren’t over, given the NAIA tournament will be held in April and the Lady Lancers will have some matches to play in the spring leading up to the hopeful bid. A schedule split because of a screwy 2020 and the modifications put in place.
But as the women of Grace College soccer walked off the pitch, they didn’t go far. Just up in the stands to reunite as one with the Grace men’s soccer team. Their journey to a national title was about the reconvene, and the women were soon to become the biggest fans to which the Lancer men were for them just moments before.
“When the game is over, the game is over,” Voss said. “God is in control. We trust the results fall into the sovereignty of God. When the men began to play, we took all that jubilation and excitement and let it go. Our men are playing. Our program is playing. Our team is playing.”