BELLINGHAM, WA— Western Washington University freshman midfielder Grace Eversaul scored in the 36th minute and junior forward Karli White added an insurance goal in the second half to lift the No. 2-seed Vikings to a 2-0 victory over No. 3-seed Sonoma State Saturday afternoon at Harrington Field in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Division II Championships.
The victory sends the defending national champion Vikings to the NCAA II West Regional Final for the fifth time in the last six seasons. WWU is 18-1-0 on the season and will play either No. 1-seed UC San Diego or No. 5-seed Concordia (OR) next week at a to be determined site. UCSD and CU play Sunday at 2 pm in La Jolla, Calif. Sonoma State, ranked No. 25 in the last United Soccer Coaches Division II poll, had its season end with a 15-5-1 record.
“Sonoma is a great opponent and they pushed us today and forced us to be really, really good in pretty much every aspect of the game, and we were able to rise to the occasion,” said WWU head coach Travis Connell. “We got off to a good start, played add-on with a goal in the second half and defended really well to finish the match.”
WWU had a pair of early chances on set pieces in the 7th minute, and then nearly put home the go-ahead goal in the 10th minute. Freshman forward Sophie Butterfield (Bellevue, WA) took a shot from the top of the box that was saved by SSU goalkeeper Kristen Spear, and then a follow-up shot by junior forward Gabriela Pelogi (Federal Way, WA) was smothered by Spear to keep the game scoreless. Senior defender Sierra Shugarts (Federal Way, WA/Decatur also had her long-distance shot in the 29th minute sail just over crossbar.
The early opportunities were cashed in at the 35:34 mark, when Eversaul (Vancouver, WA/Skyview) netted the eventual game-winner by firing a low shot to the left post from 18-yards out past a diving SSU goalkeeper. Eversaul’s sixth goal of the season was set up by a long cross from junior defender Taylor Hallquist (Vancouver, WA/Columbia River) that found freshman Zoe Milburn (Maple Valley, WA/Tahoma) on the left side of the box. Milburn passed to sophomore forward Liv Larson (Arlington, WA), who then dropped the ball to a waiting Eversaul for a one-time finish.
“Throughout the season we’ve outshot teams, but to be honest in the beginning we were taking some bad shots,” added Connell. “We have really been working on being more patient, making the extra pass, and you saw it all come together with that first goal.”
Holding onto a 1-0 halftime lead, Western added an insurance goal 20 minutes into the second half when White (North Bend, WA/Mount Si/Seattle U.) connected on a blistering shot for a top-shelf finish to the near post at the 64:17 mark. Freshman Darby Doyle (Spokane, WA/Gonzaga Prep) tracked down a long pass just before the end line, where she then found White in open space for her 10th goal of the season.
“Lots of coaches talk about it, there is let down or there is add-on, and today we were able to add on to our lead with a really great goal by Karli (White),” commented Connell on WWU’s second goal of the game. “Karli has been super dangerous in the postseason with three really good matches, and was justified in getting that goal.”
The Vikings limited the Seawolves to 4 shots in the game, with WWU senior goalkeeper Ashley Homer (Puyallup, WA/College of Saint Rose) making 3 saves while recording her 11th clean sheet of the season. Western has not allowed a goal in three postseason games and totaled 14 shutouts in 19 games this season (0.31 goals against average).
No. 3 UC San Diego (No. 1 seed in West Region) hosts No. 16 Concordia (No. 5 seed) Sunday at 2 pm inside Triton Soccer Stadium on the UCSD campus. A Cavaliers win would give the Vikings home-field advantage for the West Region Championship, while a win by UC San Diego would make WWU the visitors in its upcoming playoff fixture.
Game Notes: WWU is making its sixth consecutive NCAA Championships appearance and eighth overall in program history…today’s win improved the program to 15-6 all-time in 21 NCAA Championship games, including a current 6-game winning streak…Emily Webster played in her 89th career game (83rd start) to rank 3rd in program history for career games played (91 is 1st)…Karli White is 2nd on the team with 10 goals (Pelogi – 15), marking the first time since 2015 that WWU has had a pair of players with double-digits in goals (Miles-13, Pelogi-10)…Ashley Homer logged her 11th shutout of the season and 25th of her WWU career (41st of collegiate career)…WWU out-shot SSU 25-4, with a 10-3 advantage in shots on goal…WWU had 11 corner kicks, compared to 0 by SSU.