The Grace Tigers traveled to Dunbar,Wisconsin to take on the Pioneers of Northland International University in the first match of the regional tournament. Just one month ago Grace had been badly beaten by the Pioneers 4-0 in a regular season match. However, with the season on the line the Tigers were hoping to avenge the earlier loss. With continued improvement the ladies were confident they could make that hope a reality.
As the match started the Northland Pioneers showed why they were ranked #8 in the NCCAA national polls. The home team put constant pressure on the Lady Tigers but weren’t able to finish on any of their opportunities. Twenty minutes into the half the Pioneers’ leading goal scorer, Heather Thompson, finished a head ball. Just ten minutes later she struck again beating the Tiger defense inside the 18 and making the contest a 2-0 game. After that Grace settled in, maintaining better defensive shape and balance. Grace was able to put together a combination of passes leading to a quick counter and a breakaway attempt that was placed on net but at the keeper. The halftime score stood at 2-0 in favor of Northland. Both teams battled in the second half with Northland still carrying the time of possession but neither team was able to score until 16 minutes left in the game. Martha Huizenga-Hegg was able to beat her defender and place a ball directly on the foot of a streaking Joanne Coffey. Coffey touched the ball past the sweeper and laid out for the shot as it whizzed by the oncoming keeper. This tightened the game making the final minutes extremely interesting. Kerie Rudd was taken out of the net and replaced by Cassie Hidalgo in order for Grace to add an extra attacker. Although Grace wasn’t able to capitalize, additional pressure was placed on the Pioneer defense showing the resolve of the Tiger team. The Pioneers ended with a 20-4 shot advantage. Kerie Rudd played well in goal making 17 saves and Tina Mattias added one of her own as a defender.
“I am extremely proud of these ladies,” commented Coach Vissia in a postgame interview. “All year long they have represented the team well, Grace Bible College well, and most importantly our Savior Jesus Christ well. Although we were physically outmanned today, they lived out I Corinthians 10:31 – ‘. . . whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ I can’t tell you how enjoyable it has been to watch these young women develop on the soccer field and challenge themselves spiritually.”The Lady Tigers ended the season 4-13. The team will look to add more depth to the squad next year and continue to develop the current talent. The 2011 women’s soccer season was one filled with improvement and the 2012 season is one that will be eagerly anticipated.