Selection day for the D1 Women’s Soccer College Cup came shortly after the Spartans won the SoCon (Southern Conference) championship for the first time in seven years. When Duke was announced as the number one seed for the section, the team let out a sigh of relief. Many were confident that the team would be facing either Duke or UNC-Chapel Hill in the first round; playing soccer in North Carolina certainly has its travel perks. Knowing they were playing at a number one seeded school, the Spartans knew they had to go in fighting, but the Spartans had shown throughout the season they have a fighting spirit. We saw this when they won out their last conference play games to host the quarterfinals against Chattanooga. That was not easy, especially facing a team like Mercer in the final stretch. But they did it. When they went to the SoCon tournament knowing they were playing one of the toughest teams in the Socon, they did not fault.
Sophomore forward Cienna Rideout having an outstanding game with both an equalizer goal and golden goal to win the game. Then facing Western Carolina in the finals, Western played extremely physical the entire match. But the Spartans thrived off of that more physical atmosphere. Once they fell into rhythm, possession play in the midfield became what held off Western’s attacks.
Senior defender Regan Lehman won the SoCon’s tournament MVP award; Rideout, Lehman, junior defender Emily Jensen, and junior midfielder Heida Ragney Vidarsdottir were all named to the all-tournament team as well. The Spartans showed excellence, and the awards given out show that their hard work did not go unnoticed.
The Spartans first appearance back in the NCAA tournament since 2010 was a memorable game, giving Duke quite a run for their money. While Duke did control most of the possession in the first half, the Spartans came out in the second calmer and began to play possession ball. The stats from the game are also misleading, Duke having 30 some shots against UNCG’s one does not paint the full picture. While Duke has an incredibly strong backline, Duke’s forwards spent most of the game missing their shots. It became amusing to count how many times one forward to shank a ball to the same spot.
Duke went out and had the goal of just shooting the ball to try to create as many opportunities as possible, regardless of whether they were on frame or not. The Spartans did seem to be playing for PK’s as they held most of their players towards their own box to allow fewer chances for Duke to score. After Duke scored, the mood on the field turned more towards survive the rest of the game. Impressively, UNCG held Duke’s goal until the second half. The rest of the game felt like a steep uphill battle for the Spartans and while the results were not the ones they wanted, their hearts were left on the field. Compared to their previous matches against ACC opponents this season, where they lost to Clemson and Florida State a combined 7-0, the women stood strong against the best of the conference.
After a long season, the loss to Duke is almost surreal. But the team went home as conference champs and a fighter against Duke. While the season is over, next year looks promising for the team. They will return many solid players and recruiting many top players that will be vital to the team’s success. There is so much for them to look forward to, their future now is wide open and theirs to decide.
The ladies will be playing scrimmage games, games that do not go towards or against their standings or rank against teams in the spring, those games are unannounced currently but should be out soon. All spring home games are free for students to attend.