BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced the brackets for the 29th Annual Women’s Soccer Championship on Monday, Nov. 12. The No. 11 Olivet Nazarene University Tigers will host Viterbo University (Wis.) at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17 in the opening round. The winner will advance to Orange Beach Ala. for the remainder of the tournament running from Nov. 26- Dec. 1.
Olivet enters the game with an overall record of 16-3 and earned an automatic bid to the tournament by winning the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) regular season. The Tigers completed a sweep of the CCAC’s with a perfect 11-0 record, and more impressively doing so without allowing a single goal against. The 11-game shutout streak was a first in conference history.
The Tigers enter the game with 20 players on the roster that has scored at least one goal and 16 with at least one assist, making them difficult to defend. They are led by freshman Liz Wahl (Homer Glen, Ill.) with nine goals, including five game winners. Wahl was named CCAC Freshman of the Year earlier this week. Freshman Elizabeth Hetrick (Plainfield, Ill.) and sophomore Jessica Higer (Kuna, Idaho) are tied for second on the team with seven goals apiece. Senior Katie Dirkse (Downers Grove, Ill.) leads the Tigers with five assists, while senior Meghan Pipal (Wheaton, Ill.) is close behind with four.
While the diverse Tiger offense is hard to defend, the defense is near impossible to penetrate. The Tigers have allowed just seven goals on the season. The Tigers finished the season with 15 shut-outs, including 12 in a row that ran through the entire CCAC season. The defense wall is led by seniors Devin Johnston (Bloomingdale, Ill.), Katrina Holm (Antioch, Ill.), Katie Dirkse (Downers Grove, Ill.), and junior Rachel Kilbry (Spring Lake, Mich.) and is anchored by senior goal keeper Wendy Espejel (Ontario, Calif.). The Tigers allowed just seven goals on the season. Of the mere 99 shots allowed, only 32 were shots-on-goal. Espejel finished with 40 saves and accounted for 10 of the team’s shut-outs.
Viterbo (15-2-1, 8-0) received an automatic bid for winning the Midwest Collegiate Conference (MCC)
Offensively, the V-Hawks are led by a trio that accounts for 53 of the teams 71 goals on the season. Leading the pack is freshman Molly Machometa (McHenry, Ill.) who enters the game with 31 goals and nine assists. She is ranked 1st in the NAIA in goals/game (1.82) and points/game (4.18) and second in total points (71), shots on goal/game (3.88) and total goals scored (31). Junior Steph Wisen (Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.) leads the team in assists with 16 and has added 12 goals of her own. Freshman Courtney Morgan (Appleton, Wis.) has added 10 goals and two assists.
The V-Hawks defense has allowed just 17 goals on the season. They appear to use a battery of goal keepers. Getting the most playing time in the net is sophomore McKenzie Guth (Onalaska, Wis.). She enters the game with nine goals against with 50 saves in 12 games. Freshmen Ashley Hicks (Waukegan, Ill.) and Alicia Seachord (Lincoln, Neb.) have also seen significant time in goal. Hicks has appeared in nine games, allowing four goals and has recorded 34 saves. Seachord also has four goals against with 19 saves in seven appearances.