WATERTOWN, Wis. -- Despite the marked improvement in the team's play, Sabercats Women's Soccer saw a disappointing end to their 2017 season.
A demanding early-season schedule matched the Sabercats up against some high-ranking NCAA DIII regional opponents. After suffering lopsided defeats to some DIII powerhouses in September, the team responded positively with a stretch of 4-1-1 to end the season. That 6-game run included 3 wins over NCAA schools and no losses in regulation.
Key results came to the tune of a 5-0 win over Finlandia, a 2-0 win at Kentucky Christian, and a 1-0 defeat of North Central University in Minneapolis.
Alexis Sponable grabbed the headlines on a regular basis. The goalscoring freshman marked a dazzling debut season with 11 goals in a 5-game stretch, including game-winners in each of those 4 late-season wins.
Overall, Sponable recorded 3 hat-tricks and one 4-goal game. Her final tally was 16 goals - good enough for 7th all-time in MBU program history for goals in a season.*
The Sabercats were growing in confidence and skill entering the postseason, but they were denied their 6th consecutive regional title by a determined Providence University College team. In the NCCAA North Region Championship, the dreariness of a rain-soaked day was compounded when the Sabercats saw their 1-0 lead disappear with just 14 seconds left on the clock. PUC followed their last-gasp equalizer up with a golden-goal winner in the overtime period.
"I think we finished the season playing some of our best soccer for arguably the last two seasons," said Coach David Anderson. "[We saw] girls who identified some of the key skills necessary for their positions and they trained themselves in those areas. Our team benefited from this work down the stretch.
"The atmosphere within our program is such a joy to be a part of. The girls love to work for improvement every day and they have genuine love for each other. Their work ethic and desire push me to be a better coach. That makes coming into work every day feel a whole lot less like…coming into work."
- Record: 6-8-1
- NCCAA Record: 3-1-1
- NCCAA Regional Finish: 2nd
- NCCAA All-America Selections:
- Ali Hernandez (1st Team), Alexis Sponable (2nd Team)
- NCCAA All-Region Selections:
- Hannah Anderson, Kim Grogan, Ali Hernandez, Alexis Sponable
- AD3I All-Independent Selections:
- Alexis Sponable
- NCCAA Scholar-Athletes:
- Janae Jorgensen, Leah Ng, Hannah Wells, Alyssa Wright
Could missing out on NCCAA Nationals do more good than harm in the long run? In Coach Anderson's mind, only time will tell.
"I’m not sure I will know the benefits or consequences of missing the National Tournament until next season or even after that point," Anderson said. "I’m disappointed the girls did not get to experience the stress of playing in such a tournament, but I think missing out can affect us positively as the players let that loss motivate them in their off-season training.
"I believe it is generally easier to learn from failure than from success, so this certainly gives us a greater opportunity for learning and growth. Our competition is improving and a national tournament berth is not a guarantee just because we put on the jersey and lace up our cleats. I am excited about the amount of experience we have within our younger ranks. Our freshmen have more miles on them at this point than most and I think that will be advantageous as we continue to build our brand of soccer."
- Alexis Sponable and Ali Hernandez led the offensive charge this season. While Sponable led the charge with goals, Hernandez added 3 goals and 4 assists on the season. Hernandez's productive midfield work landed her on the NCCAA All-America first team. Sponable was given second-team honors.
- Hannah Anderson was a diligent goalkeeper for the third and final time in MBU colors. Anderson finishes her tenure at Maranatha with 237 saves and a program-fourth-best 1.85 goals-allowed average. Kim Grogan was a defensive mainstay in front of Anderson. Grogan anchored a back line that earned 3 shutout wins on the season. Both members of the defensive duo were named to the NCCAA North Region all-regional team this year.
To learn more about the team, visit their team page by clicking here.
*Women's Soccer records date back to 2003.