The Centre women’s soccer team saw its spectacular record-breaking season come to a close in the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Final Four, as No. 6 Williams scored two second-half goals to earn a 2-1 victory over the No. 9 Colonels in the national semifinals on Friday afternoon at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Mo.
Centre closes the 2015 campaign with a 21-2-1 ledger, setting a new school record for wins in a season. The Colonels’ previous record was 20 victories set by the 2012 team.
The 2015 Final Four appearance is the deepest run in program history for the Centre women’s soccer team, besting last season’s Elite Eight run.
In addition, it represented the first Final Four appearance for any Colonels team since the 1989-90 season, when the Centre women’s basketball team earned a spot in the national semifinals. It is also the highest finish for a Colonels team in the NCAA since the Centre women’s golf team posted a fourth-place showing at the 2012 NCAA Championships.
The Ephs improve to 20-1-2 on the season, advancing to tomorrow’s NCAA Division III Championship against Washington (Mo.) at 2:30 ET. Williams will be making its second consecutive title game appearance.
On Friday, the Colonels wasted little time making an impression on the big stage, as junior forward from Lexington, Ky., Destinie Graves netted her school-record 27th goal of the season just under two minutes into the contest.
Senior midfielder Elizabeth Mason (Lawrenceburg, Ky.) found Graves on the right side of the field, before the NSCAA All-American was able to beat Williams goalkeeper Tressa Palcheck with a left-footed strike from 14 yards out to the bottom left corner of the net.
Throughout the first half, junior goalkeeper Olivia Alford (Louisville, Ky.) made four saves to preserve the Colonels’ lead heading into halftime. The Ephs outshot Centre 7-2 in the opening stanza, but the Colonels held onto the one-goal margin at the break.
In the 70th minute of action, Williams midfielder Natasha Albaneze scored the equalizer, belting a right-footed shot to the top right corner of the goal. The ball struck the right post before bouncing into the back of the net.
Just over four minutes later, Albaneze gave the Ephs the lead, burying a goal on a penalty kick after Williams’ Kristina Alvarado was taken down in the box.
Centre found itself trailing for the first time since Oct. 11 against Rhodes. The Colonels played 1109:15 of soccer over a span of 13 games without trailing their opponent prior to the goal on Friday.
Although Centre was a stranger to playing from behind, the Colonels gave one last push as Graves sped by a Williams defender, finding senior forward Rachel Harris (Ridgeland, Miss.) across the box in front of the net for a shot. Harris’ strike was initially deflected by Palcheck and was surely migrating across the line and into the net, but the Eph goalkeeper made a remarkable save, diving to swat the ball and preventing Centre from knotting the game at 2-2.
Williams controlled possession for the remainder of the contest en route to the win.
The Ephs finished with advantages of 15-6 on shots, 9-5 in shots on goal and 3-2 on corner kicks.
Alford made six saves for the Colonels in the loss. Harris and senior forward Alex Combs (Danville, Ky.) each registered two shots on goal to pace Centre.
The Colonels close the season outscoring opponents 70-14 and outshooting their competition 465-160, an average of 19.4–6.7 shots per game.
In 24 games this season, Centre posted 15 shutouts and allowed more than one goal in just five contests. Coming into Friday’s semifinal matchup, the Colonels had given up one goal since Oct. 11.
Photos courtesy of Matthew S. Hicks/MSH Photography.
by Liam Halferty, Director of Athletics Communications
December 4, 2015