KISSIMMEE, Florida--Tradition is built one step at a time. For a women's soccer program that has not had success, historically speaking, Saturday's 1-0 win over Randall University in the consolation game of the NCCAA Women's Soccer National Championships was a huge stepping stone.
The journey began this year with a new coach, modest expectations, and zero tradition. It ended with the greatest sports story that the school has quite possibly ever had, with a bunch of girls that loved God, loved each other, loved their opponents, and were equally loveable in return. If you watched this team closely this year, there were no attitudes, no boasters, no look-at-me types of players, and no selfish ambitions. It was simply an incredible collection of girls who had the talent, the character, the work ethic, and the coachability that every coach dreams of. In return, they received God's blessing as the greatest women's soccer team Faith has ever witnessed.
As the Eagles took the field for the final time in 2019, playing for the right to finish as the third-best team in America, the midday Florida sun and 80 degree temperatures were a blessing for those from the Midwest who have experienced a cooler than normal fall, but an obstacle for a team that has not played in those temperatures since early in the season.
Playing their second game in two days in hot temperatures took a visible toll—not only on the Eagles, but on Randall University as well. Both teams were coming off of exhausting defeats in semifinal matches the day before against teams that loved to run and had speed to burn.
A sluggish start to the game for both teams resulted in very little flow, offensively, leading to a 0-0 tie at halftime. The Eagles managed just five shots in the first half, while Randall managed only four.
The second half is where the fatigue really set in for both teams as the minutes of the three-month-long season—with all of its practices, games, road trips, and conditioning—showed itself mentally and physically.
With less than four minutes gone in the half, Molleigh Adams-Freund was tripped up on a kick near the Randall net, resulting in a free kick from ten yards out. With one of the strongest legs on the team, Molleigh connected on a perfectly placed ball that went over the outstretched arms of Randall's keeper, giving the Eagles the 1-0 lead.
Like Friday's game, Coach Barron substituted Rebecca Sturgis in at goal in the second half in order to move Aubree Smith in at forward to try and gain some momentum offensively. Sturgis filled her role brilliantly, making the biggest save of the game midway through the second half on a Randall fast break that looked ominous for the Eagles.
Faith dominated possession of the ball the remainder of the game, and as the game wore on, Faith's energy renewed with the prize in sight. As the seconds ran down, the large contingent of Eagles fans who were in attendance rose to their feet with chants of "Eagle Nation" and the celebration ensued with smiles, tears, hugs, and a joyful end to a magnificent season.
The Eagles finished their historic season with 14 wins against only five losses. They had three All-Americans, the most goals in school history, the leading scorer in school history, the first trip to the national tournament in school history, and two All-Tournament selections (Allison Yuan and Molleigh Adams-Freund). The accolades go on and on and there aren't enough words or phrases to describe the unparalleled success that this Eagles team had this season. And most of the team returns next year.
The Eagles return to Ankeny on Sunday where they will finish up a short week of classes before most of them head home for Thanksgiving break—a break well-deserved, with plenty to be thankful for.