No. 24 Cougars outlast Grace

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s women’s soccer team, playing its third match in five days, fell to No. 24 Spring Arbor 2-0 on Wednesday.

The No. 14 Lady Lancers faded in the second half as fatigue seemed to take an effect; the loss was Grace’s first of the season. Grace now sits at 3-1-1 overall and 2-1-1 in Crossroads League play.

Grace’s possession was exquisite to open up Wednesday’s match. The Cougars (3-1-1, 3-1-1 CL) spent most of the first 20 minutes chasing Grace, who threatened early and often.

The Lady Lancers had a number of strong shots, including a pair of shots from Victoria Lucido.

JJ Aalbue tried a few shots, and Sacia Hanson was a consistent pressure on SAU’s backline.

The Lady Lancers’ closest shot came after a corner kick. Brooke Kohler headed a shot toward the left goalpost, but SAU’s goalkeeper made an athletic, diving save to keep the game scoreless.

The Cougars seemed to find their footing midway into the half. SAU produced a few quick, direct attacks in a row, and they found a goal on a swift counterattack in the 22nd minute.

The Lady Lancers had a penalty appeal denied in the closing minutes of the half; Madison Tuma fell down under pressure in the penalty box to no avail.

Grace was unable to find the equalizer, trailing 1-0 at halftime. Both teams had six shots at the midway point with Grace holding a 5-2 edge in corner kicks.

Grace possessed early to start the second half, but SAU was dangerous again on the counter. Bethany Blackwood stopped a 1v1 break from the Cougars with a lunging, one-handed save to keep Grace’s deficit at one.

Grace had a golden opportunity 12 minutes into the second half. Lea Fricke saw her deep shot beat the goalkeeper but bounce off the crossbar. On the rebound, Lucido’s header in front of the goal went high.

The Lady Lancers seemed energized by the near-misses. Aalbue shot a low laser that was saved. Not long after that, Kohler tried another headed shot off a corner kick that was saved.

But Grace’s momentum dried up soon after that stretch. SAU was able to double its advantage with a penalty kick with 11 minutes remaining, effectively ending any comeback.

Lucido and Aalbue tied for the team lead with four shots. Blackwood produced seven saves for Grace in goal.

The Lady Lancers will face another ranked opponent on Saturday, traveling to No. 2 Marian for a 2 p.m. kickoff.