Grace begins NCCAA play with 4-0 rout

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Grace’s women’s soccer team showcased its offense to open the 2021 NCCAA National Championships on Monday.

The Lady Lancers routed Asbury 4-0 thanks to two goals apiece by Ashley VandenBoom and Madison Tuma.

Grace, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, will have one pool play match remaining on Wednesday against Central Christian. A win would guarantee Grace a spot in the national semifinals.

The Lady Lancers (12-7-1) held a dominant 34-4 advantage in shot attempts during the game. Asbury (6-10-1) did well to keep Grace at four goals as the Eagles’ goalkeeper recorded 18 saves.

The Eagles made Grace sweat in the opening minute, taking a shot that forced a diving save from Bethany Blackwood.

But Grace settled and began to implement its possession-based attack. The Lady Lancers generated several strong shots, including ones from JJ Aalbue and Danae Moriarty. But the Eagles refused to surrender a goal for the first 26 minutes.

Aalbue nearly scored in the 26th minute, but her breakaway shot was saved. Seconds later, Lea Moessinger tried a volley that clanged off the goal post.

Tuma alertly collected the loose ball and passed her shot into the open net for a 1-0 lead.

Grace did not struggle to generate shots during the first half, but Asbury’s goalkeeper proved up to the task.

The Lady Lancers had to settle for a 1-0 lead at halftime despite a dominant advantage in possession and shot attempts. Grace outshot Asbury 16-2 before halftime.

Alexis Larimore nearly scored Grace’s second goal a few minutes into the second half. Aalbue faked a defender on the endline and passed to Larimore inside the penalty box. Larimore’s shot beat the goalkeeper but hit the goalpost.

Shortly after, Aalbue made a similar move that did result in a goal. Danae Moriarty found Aalbue running along the left side. Aalbue passed into the box toward Ashley VandenBoom, who placed her shot off the goal post and into the net for a 2-0 lead.

Aalbue nearly scored a goal of her own after a corner kick, but her low drive forced a last-second save.

On the ensuing corner kick, Grace did score again. Lea Moessinger placed her cross into a dangerous position, and VandenBoom converted the header for her second goal of the match.

Two minutes later, Grace’s lead increased to four. Moriarty fired a low pass inside the box, and Tuma alertly slid her shot into the net for a commanding 4-0 lead at the 62nd minute.

Grace utilized its bench liberally in the game, setting the team up well for a potentially long week. The teams who reach the championship will need to play four matches this week.

Overall, 14 players for Grace recorded a shot with five players taking multiple shots on goal. Moessinger and Moriarty had two assists apiece.

Amber Meade, Erin Crew, Kimberly Aalbue, Anna Kuhl and Paiton Miller helped record the shutout defensively for Grace. Blackwood registered a pair of saves as Grace’s goalkeeper.

The Lady Lancers are making their ninth appearance in the NCCAA tournament since 2009. Grace is in pursuit of its first national championship in team history.