KISSIMMEE, FL—Coming into the tournament as the No.7 seed, the lowest seed on their side of pool play, the Central Christian College of Kansas women's soccer team knew that they would have to defy expectations and cause some big upsets if they wanted to move on to the championship on Dec. 1st. Unfortunately for the Lady Tigers, they were unable to beat the odds, falling to second seed Oklahoma Wesleyan on Monday afternoon 1-6, and then dropping their second game on Tuesday to the third seed Grace College 0-3.
After watching Oklahoma Wesleyan take the trophy for the NCCAA Central Region tournament back in McPherson, the Tigers and the Eagles met in Kissimmee, Florida to kick off their championship runs. The Tigers made their defensive stand for about 17 minutes before the Oklahoma Wesleyan attack overwhelmed the Tigers. Marjolen Nekesa, the leading goal-scorer for the Eagles, gave them the lead in the 18th minute, then doubled it in the 23rd minute, and then completed her hat-trick in the 24th minute, taking her season goal total to 29. Thanks to Nekesa's performance, the Eagles took a 3-0 lead into the second half, where they would continue to relentlessly attack the Tigers. By the 66th minute, the Eagles would extend their lead to 6-0, thanks to two goals by Kaja Cremin, who also had three assists in the game, and their final goal by Kayla Beaver. The Tigers were able to pick up a consolation goal in the 87th minute when Kaylee Gushwa would put away an opportunity thanks to a nice assist by Mia Ota. The stats reflected the way that the Eagles controlled the game, outshooting the Tigers 24-4, with shots on goal being 11-2, as well as 10 corners to only one for the Tigers.
The Tigers would not have a lot of time to lament their loss, as they had to recover and get back out on the field the very next day to take on Grace College from Indiana. After taking an Oklahoma Wesleyan team that was receiving votes for the top 25 in the NAIA, the Tigers faced a second straight tough opponent in Grace College, who was ranked 13th in the NAIA in the last poll on Nov. 6th. Compared to the offensive prowess of Oklahoma Wesleyan, Grace College was a different beast entirely, with a suffocating defensive style that had led to 16 shutouts on the year. The Tiger attack struggled to get anything going against this defense, leading to only one shot the entire game. The Lancers, on the other hand, would rack up 23 shots, but only seven of them would be on goal. They would take the lead relatively early in the game, with a goal in the 11th minute. But the game would remain scoreless until the 69th minute when the Lancers doubled their lead. Then in the 76th minute, the Lancers would put the game away for good with their third goal. The Lancers' leading scorer, Liz Van Wormer, scored both of the second half goals.
Coach Scott Fogarty commented on his team's performances, saying, "I think we came out a little bit in 'awe' of our surroundings. Although we've played a very long season, we're still a young team and it's shown this postseason. We're also dealing with a lot of players not being 100 percent due to injury or illness. None of this is meant to take away from Oklahoma Wesleyan and Grace, both are very good teams. They gave us more than we could handle but we didn't do ourselves any favors with our mental breakdowns. All we can do now is regroup and refocus for Thursday. It's going to be another tough game, but it would be great to end our season with a victory."
With the two losses, the Lady Tigers have been eliminated from championship contention. They will play their final pool play game and their official final game of the season on Thursday against Warner University at 1:30 PM.