By: Natalie Van Dyke/GCU Staff
Knowing they needed strong performances in the second-to-last week of conference play, the Grand Canyon University Women’s Club Soccer teams saw their playoff hopes dampened with two losses to Northern Arizona University, but salvaged a tie and a win against Ottawa University to keep the sliver of hope they need.
“We came off of a high at the Aztec Cup,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Hannah Bolton. “We’re a young team, and midterms and homesickness and all these things our freshmen have never experienced are hitting hard. It’s not an excuse, but it’s an opportunity to come together and grow as a program and I’m happy with how they’re persevering.”
Saturday: GCU White 2, Ottawa University 2
With Bolton traveling to assist the GCU Men’s Club Soccer Program, GCU Club Sports Operations Manager (and former GCU Women’s Soccer player) Aislinn Finfrock stepped in to lead GCU White to a tie against Ottawa Saturday morning at GCU. Ottawa had the first advantage of the game with a goal in theeighth minute, but their lead lasted less than 90 seconds when GCU’s Mary Brummel put one in the back of the net for the Lopes on the next possession. Hannah Rowlands scored the go-ahead goal for GCU with 10 minutes left in the half, sneaking the ball past the Spirit goalkeeper at a tough angle from the end line.
The Lopes maintained possession for the majority of the second half, but Ottawa contested Lopes’ goalkeeper Alyssa Kuhn a couple of times in the final 10 minutes, and cashed in to force the tie in the 86th minute.
“Today was one of our best games as a team,” said Rowlands. “We connected well out of the back, and were looking with a purpose to go forward. Unfortunately, we didn’t step as a back line and they got that final goal, but it’s something to learn from.”
Sunday: Northern Arizona University 2, GCU White 0
GCU White suffered a 2-0 loss to NAU Saturday morning in Flagstaff. The Lumberjacks took a commanding 2-0 lead in the first 40 minutes, and their defense rendered the Lopes unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
Sunday: Northern Arizona University 3, GCU Purple 1
Playing off the momentum of the win over GCU White just an hour before, NAU took another early lead with two goals in the first 25 minutes of the game en route to the 3-1 win over GCU Purple. Kaitlyn Halverson gave the Lopes hope when she scored in the 35th minute to narrow the Lumberjacks’ lead to just one goal, but NAU finished the scoring with another goal before halftime, then shut out the Lopes the entire second half.
“I told the girls this game was going to make or break our playoff hopes,” said Bolton. “They were either going to knock off a strong team, or dig their own grave. Unfortunately, tired legs and a long weekend got the best of us, and this is going to be a tough loss to recover from.”
Monday: GCU Purple 2, Ottawa University 1
The Lopes found the redemption they were seeking from the weekend in a 2-1 victory over Ottawa University Monday night in Surprise. The Spirit gained the advantage, scoring early in the first half, but the Lopes answered back with an unassisted goal from Lexi Baca to tie the game in the 31st minute.
Bolton elected to make a goalie change for the second half, and Ana Barajas’ shutout performance gave the Lopes the advantage they needed to control the game. Baca stepped up again for the Lopes, getting the assist for the game-winning goal to Peyton McCrea.
“This was a good battle and a good test,” said Bolton. “We proved to ourselves that we can bounce back after some tough losses. We started a good chain of momentum today, so hopefully, we can get these next two games taken care of, and advance to the regional tournament.”
GCU Purple has a chance at placing in the Top 2 of the Arizona Women’s Soccer League, which would allow them to advance to the NIRSA Regional Tournament with GCU Men’s Club Soccer’s Team Purple, who finished the regular season at the top of their conference. GCU Purple must win their next two games, and need Ottawa to defeat Arizona State University Saturday morning and University of Arizona to defeat NAU on Sunday.
GCU Purple will travel to Tucson on Friday, Oct. 18 to take on the University of Arizona at 6 pm before traveling to Tempe Sunday, Oct. 20 to face ASU at 11 am.
GCU White plays one final game Saturday morning, Oct. 19 as they travel to Tucson to play University of Arizona. The game begins at 10 am.