Over the past several weeks, Olivet Nazarene University’s women’s soccer team won their last nine games in a row, clinching the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) regular season title and a bid to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II National Championship Tournament.
The season started off fairly slow for the Lady Tigers as they began the season with four losses in their first seven games. Head coach, Bill Bahr, cited their 7-0 loss to University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) on September 16 as a turning point for the team.
“After our loss against UNOH, we really had to do some soul searching,” Bahr said. “And I grounded the team from some privileges. They had to earn them back. I think this caused the team to unify, and we also decided to go with the lineup of players that had played the best during our tough non-conference season.”
A big part of the Lady Tigers recent success has been in their defense. Since the loss to UNOH in September, the team has only allowed six goals over a span of thirteen games. This sharply contrasts with their defense during the first seven games when they gave up an average of three goals per game. This span of wins also included a crucial victory over Cardinal Stritch University, who had beaten the Lady Tigers last season to win the regular season conference title, and Robert Morris University, who bested the Lady Tigers in the CCAC tournament for a berth in the national championship.
With a spot in the NAIA National Championship Tournament locked up, a lot of pressure has been taken off the Tigers, but they know their season is not over yet as they have to find the balance between pushing to win the conference tournament and preparing for the NAIA tournament.
“It’s always fun to win the regular season and the tournament,” junior goalkeeper, Amanda Roche says. “It would be like, ‘Yeah, we deserve this.’ Especially this year, with other teams saying, ‘Oh, they’re getting lucky.’ Consistently, teams have ranked us below them even though we have beaten them. So, it’ll feel really good to keep that momentum going and the confidence up as we go into nationals. But because none of the teams that we’re playing are ranked, if we lose any of those games, that will drop our ranking down. If we can keep winning these games, it’ll be better for Nationals.”
“Winning the CCAC tournament will simply be icing on the cake,” Bahr said. “We have some key players who are injured right now, so knowing we are already in the National Championship Tournament allows us to adequately rest and heal these players.”
On Friday, November 3, the Lady Tigers defeated the University of Saint Francis, their conference rivals, 4-0 in the first round of the CCAC end-of-season conference tournament. Their next game will be on Tuesday, November 7, at 4:00 pm against Cardinal Stritch on Snowbarger Athletic Field. Be sure to show up and show them the support they have earned.