By Zach Slagle
The conditions were set for the Vikings to cap an undefeated season on Senior Day, Saturday, Oct. 28, and seize their sixth-straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular season title. The Concordia Cavaliers spoiled the party, though, and won, 2-0, at Harrington Field.
The loss snapped Western’s 39-game winning streak and gave Concordia the regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming GNAC championships. The Viking’s previous non-win against a conference opponent came at the hands of Concordia, as well, after a 1-1 tie in October 2015.
Western failed to net seven shots in the first half. In the 31st minute, Cavalier’s midfielder Gabrielle Ewing curled her free kick into the left side of the net to give Concordia the halftime lead.
“They contested everything,” Western coach Travis Connell said. “Instead of giving us open, easy looks they always had a body or a hand on us. They had us off-balance and out of position. They had so much belief, and that’s what happens when a team scores first. They believe, so they work harder on defense.”
The Vikings allowed four goals the entire season until Saturday, only allowing an average of .214 goals per game which ranks 2nd in NCAA II.
“We gave up a free kick, and those are the things you have to be good at. They can determine a game,” senior goalie Ashley Homer said. “We controlled the whole game. We just have to make sure when we get our shots we put them in.”
With the balance of the regular season title on line the Vikings managed 16 more shots in the second half, bringing the team total to 23. Forwards Karli White and Gabriela Pelogi sustained pressure on Concordia with 11 shots between them.
An assist across the left side of the field from Quinn Williams to junior Sydney Van Steenberge propelled Concordia to a 2-0 lead in the waning minutes. The Vikings were held scoreless for the first time in two seasons. Cavalier’s goalkeeper Anna Miller recorded eight saves for the game.
Connell thought his team played well enough to win but just couldn’t find the back of the net.
“I thought we played really well against a tough team,” Connell said. “Sometimes people make good saves and you don’t get in the goal. They took three shots and scored two, that’s not going to happen 10 times out of 10.”
Distracted by Saturday’s loss was the final home game for this class of seniors. Defending GNAC Player of the Year Sierra Shugarts, along with Ashley Homer, Emily Webster, Colleen Lindsay and Malia Maack were honored with their families before the game in front of 300 applauding spectators. The class has secured a 76-4-6 record in their time at Western.
“Our class has seen nothing but success and we’ve had a very dominant run,” Homer said. “We’re not done yet.”
It was the first loss Western endured in 40 matches. Unfortunately, the loss came before the playoffs. Northwest Nazarene, Seattle Pacific and both teams over the weekend will make up the pool in the upcoming GNAC championships in Portland, Oregon, Nov. 2 to 4.