Western women’s soccer: 2016 NCAA National Champions
KANSAS CITY— The 2016 Viking Women’s soccer team forever immortalized themselves with a 3-2 win over back-to-back-to-back champion Grand Valley State University to nab the program’s first National Championship in school history.
In her final game as a Viking, senior forward/midfielder Caitlyn Jobanek went out with a bang scoring two of Western’s three goals. The other goal came from junior midfielder Emily Webster in the 76th minute to give the Vikings the lead for good.
“I had the best view in the house, let me tell you,” head coach Travis Connell said about Jobanek and Webster’s goals. “They were fantastic goals and that’s probably what it takes to beat a team like this… Caitlyn and Webster scored some amazing goals today.”
And amazing they were.
Jobanek’s first goal came in the 18th minute. The senior maneuvered her way into shooting position just outside the box and perfectly bent the ball into the upper left corner of the net. Grand Valley State’s goalkeeper laid out trying to stop the blast off Jobanek’s left foot, but there was no chance — the shot was placed too masterfully.
If some is good more is better. At least that’s what Jobanek must have been thinking when she put the Vikings back in the lead after Grand Valley State scored an equalizer in the 33rd minute to tie the match at one apiece. After sophomore defender Taylor Hallquist threw the ball in to Jobanek, she took a few dribbles and fired an incredibly similar shot to her previous goal into the back of the net to put Western up 2-1 in the 37th minute. Jobanek completed the match with 6 shots, the most of anyone on the pitch.
Going into halftime, Western held the lead 2-1 but the Lakers came roaring back. For the first 25 minutes of the second half it seemed like the script had been flipped a little bit and the Vikings were forced to be more defensive. Opportunities started to mount and senior defender Clare Carlson eventually tied it up for Grand Valley State with under 20 minutes to go in the match.
That’s when Webster launched the go-ahead goal from another zip code.
“I wasn’t sure. It felt good coming off my foot, but you don’t know until it hits the back of the net,” Webster said.
In the 76th minute, Webster lined up for a free kick that seemed to float in the air forever. The shot from such distance seemingly took all of Grand Valley State’s defenders by surprise, even the goalie, as they watched Webster’s strike sail into the right corner of the net. Just like Jobanek’s goals, there was nothing anyone could do about it — it was going in.
“The other team thought, they were like ‘away,’ away.’ And then it went in and I was so excited,” junior defender Sierra Shugarts said about Webster’s goal.
From there it was up to the likes of Shugarts, Hallquist, senior defender Erin Russell, redshirt freshman defender Annaliese Laurila, redshirt junior goalkeeper Ashley Homer and the rest of the Vikings to hold the lead for 14 more minutes. And they did, as Western didn’t allow the Lakers to put up another shot for the remainder of the match.
“There was a lot of wonderful performances tonight,” Connell said.
Jobanek and Webster might be the stars of the night, but they’d be the first to tell you it was a team effort — both in the championship game and all season long. The word that comes to mind when describing this Viking team is humility. Such humbleness, from an undefeated National Championship team no less, stems from a confidence in each other and knowing they need one another to get the job done. The Vikings played 18 different players in the championship game, and no matter who was out there, the team never missed a beat.
“They have so much belief in themselves and the person next to them and it showed up many times this season,” Connell said. “That’s inside, that’s who you are as a person and that’s what showed up. The players just said, ‘we’re going to go and win this thing no matter what gets in our way.'”
Western finished the match with 16 shots, 6 of which were on goal, compared to Grand Valley State’s 8 shots, 4 on goal. Still, the narrative coming into the weekend was Western had a “curse” after coming to the final four three of the last four years and losing in the semifinal round each time. But the Vikings trusted the process and forged onward, knowing redemption was coming. Turns out it would come on Saturday night, Dec. 3, against the team who ended their season in 2015.
“That’s how you build a program. The players pass on tradition, they pass on work ethic, they pass on belief down to the next group that comes,” Connell said. “We’re real excited that we won this thing and we’re going to celebrate it.”
Western finishes the season with a 24-0-1 record, Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles, an NCAA Division II West Regional title and, of course, a National Championship.