Grace women’s soccer loses title game in 2OT

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Grace’s women’s soccer team came agonizingly close to claiming a national championship on Saturday.

The Lady Lancers fell 2-1 to Dallas Baptist in the 2020 NCCAA national championship game on Saturday, losing with five minutes remaining in double overtime.

The Lady Lancers were facing a stiff test in the title bout; DBU has reached the NCAA Div. II national tournament for six consecutive years. The Patriots dropped into the NCCAA this fall due to uncertainties in the NCAA ranks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year DBU reached the NCAA DII Sweet Sixteen.

Grace lost the game despite holding a 1-0 lead at halftime.

The Lady Lancers (10-4-1) stunned the Patriots (4-0) with an early goal. Alexis Larimore split the defender’s legs with a pass to JJ Aalbue, who in turn crossed a pass into the middle of the penalty box.

Lea Moessinger connected with Aalbue’s cross, tucking a one-time volley into the bottom-right corner of the net. Grace’s goal came 91 seconds into the match.

Larimore nearly made the score 2-0 a few minutes later, but her shot whizzed just above the crossbar.

Dallas Baptist tried to find an equalizer and nearly did in the sixth minute. Erin Crew blocked a potential game-tying shot in front of goal.

A few minutes later, Anna Kuhl found herself open in the box after a corner kick, but her header was saved.

Midway into the half, the Patriots almost scored again. Bethany Blackwood made a 1v1 save from close range, however, to preserve Grace’s lead.

Grace went into halftime still ahead 1-0. The Patriots held a slight 7-4 edge in shot attempts.

Grace’s lead evaporated almost immediately after halftime. DBU marched down the field after the kickoff, scoring 33 seconds into the second half to level the score 1-1.

The Lady Lancers pressed for the lead with 28 minutes remaining, but Aalbue’s low shot was pushed wide by the diving goalkeeper.

Three minutes later, Grace looked to score again. Taylor Binkerd intercepted a pass from DBU’s goalkeeper and had a 1v1 opportunity, but the Patriots’ goalkeeper made a stout save to snuff out Binkerd’s chance.

The play was replicated with 11 minutes on the clock. Helena Vieira Rijo stole a pass and found herself alone with the DBU goalkeeper, but Rijo’s shot sailed above the goal.

Grace seemed the stronger side as regulation started to wind down. The Lady Lancers earned a free kick in the final minute, but the Patriots denied the chance.

In the last second of regulation, Aalbue almost won the championship in spectacular fashion. The sophomore tried a long, right-footed shot which beat the goalkeeper but glanced harmlessly off the crossbar. The game headed to overtime.

Neither team could score in the first overtime session, although not for lack of trying. DBU had the better opportunities in the first part of the period, but Grace seemed stronger as the period ended.

Early in the second OT, Grace had a deep free kick. Brooke Kohler won a header on the set piece, but her effort went wide of the goal frame.

Two minutes later, DBU won the title. The Patriots crossed from the left side of the field and managed to squeeze a shot through a crowded penalty box into the back of the net.

Grace’s season is far from finished, however. While the fall season will end, Grace will continue to play in the spring. The Lady Lancers will play nonconference games as well as potentially the NAIA National Championships.