Vikings fall to defending national champion West Florida, 2-1, in OT

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Stephanie Hamilton and Kristin Maris
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Stephanie Hamilton and Kristin Maris
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

Dec. 5, 2013

Box Score

EVANS, Georgia - Despite forcing extra time with a goal in the final minute of regulation, a glorious season came to an end for Western Washington University, as the Vikings fell in overtime, 2-1, to defending national champion University of West Florida in a national semifinal game Thursday at the NCAA Division II Women's Soccer Final Four being held at Blanchard Woods Park.

The Vikings, ranked No.9 nationally in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/NCAA Division II Top 25 and the West Region champions, concluded their season 20-2-1.

Sashana Campbell scored both goals, including the game-winner 3:30 into overtime, for No.3-ranked West Florida, which improved to 18-0-3 and extended its winning streak to 15 matches and its unbeaten run to 34. The Argonauts, South Region champs, face Grand Valley State in the national championship game on Saturday.

Grand Valley State defeated American International, 4-1, in Thursday's other semifinal.

Campbell opened the scoring in the 67th minute. Chelsea Palmer played a long ball down the right side that Campbell ran onto in the penalty area, tapping it past onrushing WWU goalkeeper Alyssa Beauchamp (Sr., Vancouver/Mountain View) and finishing into an open net from a tight angle.

But the Vikings battled back, creating a series of chances in the final 10 minutes of the second half. Kristin Maris (Sr., Issaquah) nearly equalized with a header in the 83rd minute that forced West Florida goalkeeper Sarah Story to shove the ball over the crossbar.

Then with just 36 seconds left, Maris did tie the score, getting her head to a high cross from the right side by Brina Sych (Sr., Vancouver/Union) with a clever flick that looped the ball into the far corner for her 11th goal of the season.

"We talked at half about how twice this season we had scored in the last 20 seconds, because we needed to believe in that," said WWU coach Travis Connell (11th year, 141-61-20). Two seniors stepped up big there. Brina gave every ounce of energy she had, and Maris was triple-teamed there and still found a way."

The Vikings, who had a 17-11 advantage in shots, had the first three shot attempts of overtime, the most dangerous being one from 10 yards by Anna Geldenhuys (Sr., Bellevue/Sammamish) that was deflected out for a corner by West Florida defender Daniella Cruz.

But barely a minute later, Campbell got the game winner. Another Palmer long ball found Campbell in stride on the left side of the penalty area, and she calmly finished high just inside the near post.

"That combination has scored a lot of goals in the national tournament," Connell said. "We knew what to expect, but both of them are great players. Campbell showed so much composure in the 94th minute of a physical game to finish with that little scoop.

"We had to push the backs forward at the end to get a goal, and we started that way in overtime because we were trying to win it. A good team countered on us and scored."

WWU struggled in the early going. The Argonauts had six corner kicks and a 4-1 advantage in shot attempts through the first 25 minutes.

"No matter how you try to prepare, it's still our first Final Four, and you can forgive the nerves we started the game with," Connell said. "They were on us in the first half, but when we went in at halftime, I didn't have to say anything, you could see in our players' eyes that they were ready. We started to play our game in the second half. Once we got our legs under us, we played really well today, and we can be really proud."

The national semifinals marked the longest post-season run in school history for the Vikings, who also reached the regional finals (round of 16) in 2008 and 2012. The 20 victories were a school record.

"It's a big step for our program," Connell said. "There are a lot of coaches and former players who have played a role, but a lot of credit has to go to the women on our roster.

"We had a community engagement activity (Wednesday) with third graders at Evans Elementary, and I got to sit back and watch them have so much fun, and watch the kids have so much fun. They're quality people, they're balanced, they do well in school, they're going to be great citizens. They've taken each other for quite a ride in soccer this year and accomplished a lot of things, and I'm glad to have been along for that ride."

Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 Evans, Georgia - Blanchard Woods Park

NCAA II National Semifinal

West Florida 2, Western Washington 1 (OT)

Scoring - 1. UWF, Sashanna Campbell (Chelsea Palmer), 66:46;
2. WWU, Kristin Maris (Brina Sych), 89:26; 3. Campbell (Palmer) 93:30.

Shots - WWU 17, UWF 11 Saves - WWU 5 (Alyssa Beauchamp 5); UWF 8 (Sarah Story 7, Team 1) Corner kicks - WWU 9, UWF 11 Fouls - WWU 9, UWF 10 Attendance: 250

The Western Washington University women's soccer team took the defending national champions to overtime on a miraculous goal in the final minute of regulation, but West Florida ended the Vikings' run with a 2-1 win in the NCAA Division II national semifinals on Thursday, Dec. 5, at Evans, Ga.

Sashana Campbell scored an unassisted goal four minutes into overtime off a long feed from Chelsea Palmer to down the Vikings and end their record-breaking season with a 21-2-1 record.

"That combination has scored a lot of goals in the national tournament," WWU coach Travis Connell said in a school press release. "We knew what to expect, but both of them are great players. Campbell showed so much composure in the 94th minute of a physical game to finish with that little scoop. We had to push the backs forward at the end to get a goal, and we started that way in overtime because we were trying to win it. A good team countered on us and scored."

It was Campbell's second goal of the game.

She put the Argonauts up 1-0 in the 67th minute on another long run, when she beat a WWU defender. Vikings goal tender Alyssa Beauchamp came off the line to try to take away the angle, but Campbell touched it around her and put the ball into the empty net.

But Western, which was making its first appearance in the Final Four, kept its magical season alive when Kristin Maris headed in an equalizing goal with 34 seconds remaining in regulation off a nice crossing pass from Brina Sych.

"We talked at half about how twice this season we had scored in the last 20 seconds, because we needed to believe in that," Connell said. "Two seniors stepped up big there. Brina gave every ounce of energy she had, and Maris was triple-teamed there and still found a way."

The goal ended up sending the game to overtime.

West Florida will play Grand Valley State, which beat American International 4-1 in the first semifinal on Thursday, at 9 a.m. PST in the national championship game.

The Argonauts controlled play through much of the game, out shooting Western until the Vikings had to turn up the offensive pressure late in the second half following Campbell's first goal. First-half corner kicks were 6-0 in favor of West Florida, though the Vikings did close the gap to 11-9. Though it was out shot fro most of the game, WWU ended up with a 17-11 edge in the game, including 9-7 on net.

"No matter how you try to prepare, it's still our first Final Four, and you can forgive the nerves we started the game with," Connell said. "They were on us in the first half, but when we went in at halftime, I didn't have to say anything, you could see in our players' eyes that they were ready. We started to play our game in the second half. Once we got our legs under us, we played really well today, and we can be really proud."