ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – With over 60 fans in the stands and more than 300 watching in Bourbonnais, the No. 12 seeded Olivet Nazarene University women’s soccer team played with all the heart and determination that always have, but came up just short in the 29th NAIA National Championship on Saturday, Dec. 1. The Tigers fell 3-2 to No. 2 seeded Lindsey Wilson University (Ky.) bringing their amazing season to an end.
Olivet (19-4-1) jumped on them early as senior Devin Johnston (Bloomingdale, Ill.) opened the scoring with her first goal of the championship with a header off a corner kick from Kelsey Warp (Lake Arrowhead, Cal.) in the fourth minute of action. The lead didn't last long though as Blue Raider’s Emilia Jonsson tied the game at 1-1 with a top-shelf goal less than two minutes later.
The Tigers took their second lead of the match at the 19:14 mark when sophomore Jessica Higer (Kuna, Idaho) netted her 10th goal of the season off of a pass by senior Emma Reutter (Mason, Mich.). The strike came from the far side of the 18-yard box and looped over the leaping Lindsey Wilson goalkeeper and into the far corner. The lead would hold until the 32nd minute when Elisha Fry posted her first goal of the championship on a low free kick that found its way into the bottom-left corner of the net.
The always strong defense held on until the 60th minute when the Elizabeth Madjarac chested down a feed in front of the goal and found the net in what appeared to be a questionable goal.
Olivet couldn't quite get things going in the second half, posting no shots in the period. Senior goal keeper Wendy Espejel (Ontario, Cal.) finished the day with three saves.
Espejel, Johnston and Higer were all named to the All-Tournament Team after the game for their performances throughout the week.
The Tigers are the first women's soccer team from the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference to advance to the national championship game, and the first for Olivet since the 1998 football team.