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Sunday, July 5, 2020

No. 7 nationally ranked Vikings advance to NCAA Division II Tournament

Senior defender Emily Nelson holds up the 2019 GNAC Champions trophy after Western women’s soccer team beat Seattle Pacific University 2-1 in Seattle on Saturday, Nov. 16. // Photo by Matthew Brashears

By Elizabeth Mahan

The Western women’s soccer team beat Seattle Pacific University 2-1 to win the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday, Nov. 16 at Interbay Stadium in Seattle.

The SPU Falcons hosted the 2019 GNAC Women’s Soccer Championship, where Central Washington University (No. 4), Seattle Pacific University (No. 2), Western Oregon University (No. 3), and Western (No. 1) faced off for the title. 

“We already have so much potential as a team, and defensive and attacking-wise, we are a force to be reckoned with,” junior goalkeeper Natalie Dierickx said.

The match marks the fifth meeting between the Vikings and Falcons at the conference final.  

This victory gives Western a winning record in the matchup that now stands at 3-2 in the Vikings’ favor.

The first point on the board came from SPU, a shot to the lower right corner by sophomore midfielder Chloe Gellhaus.

“We did concede the goal against the run of play, but we bounced right back,” head coach Travis Connell said. 

That bounce-back was a goal off the head of senior midfielder Jordyn Bartelson after the crossbar deflected senior defender Peyton Chick’s shot on goal.

At the half, the tally on the board stood at a 1-1 tie.

“We are finding the little details and continuing to have that champion attitude and champion mindset,” Dierickx said. 

Dierickx has only allowed eight goals out of the 134 shots this season, five of which were during GNAC games. 

The final half began with a kickoff from SPU and immediate pressure from the Vikings.

“I give the credit to the players,” Connell said. “They execute. They are the ones that handle the moment right.”

After a 55-minute scoring drought, Karli White, a senior forward and midfielder, scored the final goal with nine minutes remaining. The rebound goal from White and assist by freshman defender Makenzie Burks ultimately won the game. 

White was named the tournament’s Most Valued Player, having a total of 12 shots, with five of those on goal and two finding the net.

She was also named GNAC Player of the Year, with six goals, eight assists, 71 shots (0.085), 32 shots on goal (0.451) and four game-winning goals.

“As a team, we approach every game focused on the next opponent,” White said. “No matter who we are playing, we try and remember how we like to play, remind each other just to relax and let the ball do the work.” 

Over 400 fans attended the rather chilly game, with a portion of Western fans chanting “in the net Western!” for every corner and free kick. 

The Vikings out-shot the Falcons 15-9, had five of the seven corner kicks and 11 fouls to SPU’s seven. 

Out of the 30 members on Western’s team, 21 played and had some touch on the ball, all contributing to the 2-1 win. 

“It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s one opportunity,” White said. “You follow it up, put a little toe on the ball, and it changes the game.” 

As the announcer made the count down for the final 10 seconds of the match, Western possessed the ball safely to secure their win.  

“You could really see some of our experience come through, where they didn’t get rattled and stuck with it,” Connell said. “We have a great roster, a deep team and dangerous players all over the field.” 

Vikings are 18-2-0 on the season and 12-0 in the GNAC. They will make the trip to regionals on Nov. 22.


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