November 28, 2017
This was one of those maddening, throw-something-at-the-TV, hard-to-comprehend matches. One where non-soccer fans yell, “Just put the ball in the net, already.” One where one of the most prolific offenses in the history of The Master’s University peppered its opponents with shots, corner kicks and chances and still found itself without a goal, and, in this case, out of the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship altogether.
The Mustangs fell 3-0 to Tennessee Wesleyan on Tuesday in the round of 16 in Orange Beach, Alabama, ending their season at 15-6-1.
No. 11-seeded TMU, however, outshot the unseeded Bulldogs 20-10 and occasioned six more corner kicks. Mustang senior mid Kellian Ahearn was all over the field on this night. She also found herself perplexed at the game’s conclusion.
“I honestly think that was the best game we’ve played all year,” she said. “So for the score to be that lopsided definitely was really weird.
“We had shot after shot after shot. And when they weren't going in, I just laughed. I was like, ‘OK, God, you’re humbling us right now.’ … We were a yard away and some how, some way they weren’t going in. So that hurts. But that’s soccer.”
And, frankly, that’s Tennessee Wesleyan (15-4-2), of late. The Bulldogs upset No. 6 seed Keiser University in Florida, 2-1, during last week’s opening round despite being outshot 28-4.
Like Tuesday, Wesleyan scored two goals before halftime against Keiser to create considerable cushion. The Mustangs never scored, but they must have made Wesleyan uncomfortable all the same.
Midway through the second half, senior forward Sarah Stead launched a cross deep into the Bulldogs’ 18-yard box, where Suzanne Mabie got a foot on it. The ball sailed high and wide. On another occasion, Hailey Gomillion took a free kick from just outside the box. She chipped a shot toward the goal’s upper third, but keeper McKenna Loges reached up and snagged it.
Loges made nine saves in all. Kaylee Poffek made three saves for the Mustangs, who miscommunicated in their defensive third in the 12th minute to allow Nicole Broderick her 21st goal of the season.
The plan entering the night, Ahearn said, was to bar the Bulldogs from deep dribble penetration in the middle of the field. The scheme, at least in part, limited the Bulldogs to six shots on goal. But it didn’t keep Broderick out of net. Dayna Randall, either.
In the 16th minute, Randall dribbled around the left side, a Mustang defender stepped too late, and Randall shot it past a lunging Poffek.
Wesleyan’s third goal came in the 89th minute after the Mustangs went to two defenders to try for one last offensive push in what’s otherwise been a season defined by offense.
Master’s finished with 56 goals, two short of the program record set in 2001. The team’s second half Tuesday, coach Curtis Lewis said, didn’t look so different from the squad’s first 21 games, at least in terms of process.
“We played a fantastic second half,” he said. “We pushed the ball, moved the ball well. We created plenty of opportunities to score, and we just lost the scoring touch today.”
It ended the program’s best season since 2014, when it also advanced to the NAIA’s final 16.
“We went out there and played as a family,” Ahearn said. “We played as a unit.”