Despite loss, women’s soccer team earns spot in NCCAA Championship

The Bruins women’s soccer team was awarded the at-large bid to compete in the NCCAA DII National Championship next week, Nov. 13 to Nov. 16, in Kissimmee, Fla.

BJU played last weekend at the NCCAA DII South Regional playoffs, defeating Toccoa Falls College but losing to the Clearwater Christian College Cougars.

The Bruins, riding a four-game winning streak, took on Toccoa Falls in the first round.

The Bruins set the pace from the outset and maintained ball control. Working their way up the field, the team earned several shots in the first few minutes. Not more than 10 minutes in, senior midfielder Becca Luttrell put a shot past the goalkeeper off a through ball from sophomore Jennifer Wise. Several minutes later, sophomore midfielder Spencer Martin scored off a deflection from an Eagles’ defender to make it a 2–0 game at halftime.

Bruins junior defender Caitlyn Lehman scored an arching shot over the Eagles’ keeper, and after extending the lead to 3–0, the Bruins began to remove starters to save them for the upcoming championship match. The team kept up the pressure and kept the Eagles from scoring, giving the Bruins a shutout 3–0 victory to begin the tournament.

BJU followed its win over Toccoa Falls with a match against Clearwater Christian College in the Regional Championship. Ranked as the No. 1 seed, Clearwater was coming off a commanding 6–0 victory over Johnson University of Florida in the semi-final round. Both teams played solid defense and shared possession time equally.

Eleven minutes in, a penalty was called on the Bruins, and the Cougars scored on a free kick by sophomore midfielder Leah Zweirs. Although the Cougars kept up the pressure, the Bruins defense was able to hold them off. In the 23rd minute, the Bruins made a run up the field and Luttrell put a low shot into the net to tie the game at 1–1. The Cougars, however, bounced back with star player Tori Hale scoring on a cross-field shot, breaking the tie.

The Bruins came out in the second half knowing they needed a tying goal. They maintained composure and spread the field. BJU got the ball up field for several opportunities to score, but Clearwater was solid and held off each attack. The Cougars won 2–1, claiming the Regional Championship.