For the first time in program history, the Bob Jones University Bruins women’s soccer team won the NCCAA DII South Regional Championship.
The Lady Bruins won in thrilling fashion, claiming victory in a penalty shootout after a scoreless battle against the Toccoa Falls Screaming Eagles.
The Bruins competed in their third straight regional championship game after earlier defeating Johnson University in the semifinals of the NCCAA DI South Regional Tournament.
Despite losing in their previous two trips, they were confident they could beat Toccoa Falls this year.
Earlier this year, the Bruins split their regular season matchups with the Eagles 1-1.
Their loss came off an unlucky deflection, but they followed that up with a dominating 3-1 win a couple of weeks later.
“I have to hand it to Toccoa Falls,” coach Chris Carmichael said. “They have given us a strong match every time. It’s a great rivalry we have now.”
The Lady Bruins picked up where their last matchup against Toccoa Falls left off, controlling the possession in spite of the muddy pitch.
It took only two minutes to get their first opportunity, but Abby Davis had her shot saved by the Eagles’ keeper, Emily Truelove.
This opened up an onslaught of shots from the Lady Bruins as Davis, Spencer Martin, Caralise Roach, Paige Englehart and Kaitie Hummel each had opportunities, but none of their shots could find the net.
In the 35th minute, the Eagles’ Jordan Van Horn struck a ball from outside the box that sailed just wide.
By halftime, the Bruins were winning the shot margin 14-4, but neither team could capitalize on their opportunities.
“This is it,” Carmichael said. “We [have to] give it everything for the last 45 [minutes].”
In the second half, the Bruins continued their high level of effort, pushing for an elusive first goal.
In the 47th minute, Emily Truelove came up with yet another save to keep Abby Davis’ shot out.
In the 64th, both Davis and Jenn Wise took shots, but Truelove remained solid, coming up with both saves.
The Lady Bruins continued to push for a goal, but the game remained scoreless at the end of 90 minutes.
Both teams settled in defensively during the two 10 minute halves of extra time, with each team realizing that one defensive mistake would cost them the game.
With both teams goal-less after 120 minutes, the South Regional Championship would be determined by a penalty shootout.
“We wanted to finish it before the penalties,” said Coach Carmichael. “It is somewhere we had never been before, but as it got closer, I reminded them to keep their composure.”
Spencer Martin, the senior midfielder, stepped up to take the first penalty. She placed the ball in the top left corner and Emily Truelove was unable to reach it.
Elizabeth Mattison took Toccoa’s first penalty. She placed the ball into the bottom corner, but Jess Baun reacted quickly diving to her left to block the shot.
Mimi Lozano stepped up next for the Lady Bruins and calmly buried her penalty to give the Bruins a 2-0 advantage.
The pressure was on for the Eagles’ Lizz Rice, and she crushed her kick well over the goal.
The third penalty taker for the Bruins was Jenn Wise. She continued the momentum by striking the ball to right of the keeper, putting BJU up 3-0.
Nicole Cooprider was the final hope for Toccoa Falls as she stepped up to take their third penalty. Cooprider’s penalty kick sailed over the crossbar, and the Bruins broke out in celebration of their first ever regional championship win.
“Its a great feeling,” Coach Carmichael said. “The ultimate goal of our season was to win regionals and get to nationals so this is just the first step. We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to focus on the ultimate prize at the national tournament.”
The second-seeded Bruins will play in the NCCAA DII National Tournament in Kissimmee, Florida on Nov.11–14. Their first match is Wed. at 5 p.m.
A Lady Bruins’ championship would be their second national title in the young program’s history.