Bruins women close season with loss to Cougars

The BJU Bruins fell to the Clearwater Christian College Cougars with a final score of 1-0 in Clearwater, Florida, in what proved to be the final game of the BJU women’s soccer team’s 2014 campaign.

The heartbreaking loss in the NCCAA II South Regional Final ends the run for a second consecutive national championship for the Bruins.

Although both teams were tied for the No. 1 spot in the NCCAA rankings, the Bruins carried a record of 12-4-2 overall into the game against the Cougars’ 7-7-1 record. During the regular season the two sides met twice with the Bruins going 1-0-1. Unfortunately, BJU could not convert those results into another win Saturday night.

About 20 minutes into the first half, the Bruins defense tripped up a Cougar in the box, surrendering a crucial penalty kick early in the game. Clearwater’s Heidi Ruth took the penalty kick, but senior goalkeeper Tori Anderson dove to her left, deflecting the ball back into the field of play where Ruth was able to bury the deflection into the back of the net.

The Bruins were disheartened by the goal but fought valiantly throughout the second half, attempting to tally the tying goal. The best opportunities came when the team possessed the ball and pushed it up the wings.

Unfortunately, the equalizer never came, as the Bruins could not finish several offensive opportunities. The Cougar defense employed a “bend-but-don’t-break” strategy that proved to be successful in the most important game of the year.

The 2014 season was far from unsuccessful, as the Bruins finished with a 12-5-2 record. The NCCAA also had the Bruins placed near the top of each weekly ranking for the majority of the year. Senior Tori Anderson, junior midfielder Jennifer Wise, sophomore forward Leah Edwards, and freshman defender Allyson Jenkins were all named to the NCCAA DII South All-Region team.

On the journey to the 2013 National Championship, BJU actually lost in the South Regional final, but received an “at-large” bid to make the 2013 National Tournament. This year, due to some reconstruction in the NCCAA, the at-large bid is unavailable to the previously No. 1 ranked Bruins.

Five seniors from the women’s team will graduate this year, and Head Coach Chris Carmichael is now hitting the recruiting trail to look for future Bruins. The team graduates goalkeeper Tori Anderson, midfielders Rebecca Luttrell, Isobel Johnston, and Victoria Musselman, and defender Caitlyn Lehman, so most of the recruitment process will probably focus on strengthening the midfield and defense. Three of the Bruins’ top four scorers will return.

It was an exciting season for the Bob Jones University women’s soccer team — a season filled with thrilling overtime victories, blowouts and a berth in the NCCAA South Regional championship.

The coaches and returning players have their eyes on redemption and another postseason run next year.