From SWOSU Sports
Doug Self, Sports Information Director
WEATHERFORD – SWOSU Soccer advanced to the Great American Conference Tournament Championship after outshooting Southern Nazarene 4-2 on penalty kicks Thursday afternoon at the Athletic Complex. Three different Bulldogs scored goals in the first 90 minutes of the match, but after neither team scored in both overtime periods, the game was decided with the dramatic penalty kick scenario.
SWOSU never led in the match, falling behind to SNU 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 throughout the course of the game. But the resilient Bulldogs always responded to the challenge, netting goals courtesy of Ashlyn Collier, Sandra Nabweteme, and Sarah Wilson who each scored once for the Bulldog attack.
The match scoring began after SWOSU allowed a ball to be kicked past goalkeeper Courtney Flores in a cluster of players by one of their own in the 21st minute. Eight minutes later, it was Ashlyn Collier taking a pass in the box from Nabweteme and putting it home for the early equalizer. Going into halftime, the match was knotted at 1-1 despite the Dawgs dominating the shots category 13-1.
After giving up another goal in the 57th minute, SWOSU found another way to even up the scoreboard after a foul call in the box allowed a penalty shot to be taken by Nabweteme who kicked it to the back of the net for the score. Tied 2-2, Southern Nazarene again jumped ahead of SWOSU in the 70th minute and looked to finally close the game out by toughening up their defense. The Bulldogs went on the attack, forcing the issue looking for the third equalizer. In dramatic fashion with just seven minutes left on the clock, Alimata Rabo found an open Sarah Wilson who was able to get her shot away over SNU goalie Natasha Fuentes sprinting out of her box to defend. Wilson floated the ball over Fuentes, and it slowly bounced in for the goal and the 3-3 tie. From that point on neither team was able to score and the game went to overtime.
SWOSU dominated both overtime periods, getting three shots away in each period but failing to score in either overtime session. The Dawg defense buckled down in the extra 20 minutes, not allowing a single shot the entire overtime. Despite those statistics, at the end of the second overtime the score remained the same and the match headed to penalty kicks to decide who would advance in the tournament.
It was in the penalty kicks that SWOSU took control. Nabweteme stepped up first for the Dawgs and netted her ball, putting pressure on SNU. The Crimson Storm responded, and tied the kicks up at 1-1. Erica Brunet was next in line for SWOSU and again was able to score to force SNU to answer. Courtney Flores stuffed Southern Nazarene on their next attempt to give the Bulldogs the 2-1 lead. Dajhane Turner kicked third for SWOSU and missed just left on her shot, opening the door for SNU to tie the kicks back up. Flores stepped up for the task however, diving to her left to deny the Crimson Storm shot and keep the score 2-1. Alimata Rabo kicked her goal home in the fourth spot and had her opponent answer to keep Southern Nazarene alive and in need of a save to extend the session. The save did not happen as Lauren Williams kicked her shot to the far left of the goal for the score and end of the match, advancing on penalty kicks 4-2.
“This wasn’t how we wanted to move forward in the tournament, but at this point of the year it’s all about advancing,” SWOSU Head Coach Mark Persson said. “I thought our fans were phenomenal and really gave us energy to play off of and our team showed their character to keep battling back. With any young team you have to go through these experiences to learn what it takes to win championships and I’m really proud of my team for the way they fought today.”
SWOSU (12-4-2) advances to the GAC Championship game to play (3) Harding at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning at the Athletic Complex. The winner will receive an automatic invitation to the NCAA Regional Tournament that will start on Friday, Nov. 11.