Photo by Oliver Chapin-Eiserloh
Up in Abilene, the Trinity women’s soccer team pulled off a thrilling 2–1 overtime victory over Pacific Lutheran University to move on to the second round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Women’s Soccer Championships. Just over 24 hours later, the Tigers defeated host Hardin-Simmons University to advance to the Sweet 16.
According to sophomore midfielder and forward Madison Horner, the victory against rival Hardin-Simmons, who knocked the Tigers out of last year’s NCAA tournament, and who the team beat at the start of the regular season, is extra sweet for the team.
“That was definitely a comeback from last year because that’s who beat us out of the NCAA [tournament], so [it was] definitely a strong start to the season I would say, and then also beating them again here in this last round of 32. This past weekend was a really great feeling because they’ve always been one of our biggest rivals in Texas,” Horner said.
The season for the Women’s Soccer has been a mixed bag. Although the team has a record of 17–3–1, this season marks the first time the team lost the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) title after earning 11 consecutive championships. However, according to head coach Dylan Harrison, the team quickly stepped up to the occasion when faced with a challenge.
“Any time we have a result we don’t like, it’s considered a setback, but we quickly turn it into a learning experience. One of the big challenges has been players missing games because of sickness and injuries. Once again players have stepped up when needed,” Harrison said.
Winning the tournament would have guaranteed the team a spot in the NCAA tournament, but after losing to Southwestern University in an overtime shootout, the team had to wait to see if they would get an at-large bid, which they did. They were able to advance to the NCAA Tournament, and their loss at the conference championship has turned into a major motivating factor for the team, according to Horner.
“It was definitely a difficult task to face that we didn’t win conference, which was definitely not something we were, you know, expecting or used to, but I think it definitely pushed us forward to have even more of a want and drive to push forward in this NCAA tournament,” Horner said.
If the team continues their win streak and goes on to earn the championship title, it will make university history as the first-ever title for women’s soccer.
“[A championship] would mean everything. It’s so hard to win it, and if they could do that for their university, families and each other it would be a memory no one could ever take away from them,” Harrison said.
Although there is still a long road ahead to the championship game, Trinity has just as good a chance of any team still currently in the running, and first-year forward Sarah Evans believes winning is within reach for the team.
“It would just mean so much. Something that we kind of talk about is … ‘Somebody has to win, so why not us? What better team than us?’ We know we’ve worked hard and it would just be very validating,” Evans said.
The Tigers continue tournament play on Saturday, Nov. 23, at 10 a.m. on the road against top-ranked Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA. Regardless of the outcome, Harrison argues the school can celebrate what the Tigers have already achieved this season.
“The season started with over 400 teams competing and we are left with 16. This team has earned the respect of our students and we want to share these accomplishments with all of Trinity,” Harrison said.