KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- For the first time in program history, Maranatha Women's Soccer has won the NCCAA DII National Championship.
In an unstoppable 5-1 defeat of Randall University, the Sabercats have finally conquered their postseason fears, rewritten the script, and conquered that elusive national title.
- Result: #1 Maranatha 5-1 #3 Randall
- Venue: Austin-Tindall Stadium
- Location: Kissimmee, Fla.
- Event: NCCAA DII National Championship
- Attendance: 126
- Record: MBU (6-5-1), RU (3-2-0)
Right away, the Sabercats sent the unmistakable message that they didn't come this far just to be turned away. Inside the first five minutes, the Sabercats had fired off three good shots, and the pressure paid off just 11 minutes in. Sarah Bagin sent in a corner kick, Makayla Willette headed it towards the goal, and Kseniya Hassenplug flicked it into the back of the net. It was just the start the Sabercats needed, and it was just the start they deserved.
Just three minutes later, Alexis Sponable shook the frame of the goal with a 25-yard free kick that caromed off the crossbar, and in the ensuing plays, Amy Montgomery started one of her winding runs through the Randall defense to get to the endline. Montgomery chipped it to the back post right into the path of Taylor Moses, who turned it in for the go-ahead goal.
Just two minutes later, it was Sponable's turn. The senior broke behind the Randall defense on a breakaway, took a shot that was saved, then touched in the rebound for the third goal in just a seven-minute stretch. Just 20 minutes into the national championship game, the Sabercats had a three-goal lead.
They were flying.
But against the run of play, Randall took one back. After a ball was sent behind the Sabercats' back line, Randall's Emily Lake poked it around Trisha Wright to get the opener for the Saints. The Sabercats had total control of the game, but Randall had one back.
After the flurry of goals, both teams settled down for the rest of the first half. The Sabercats kept possession for the majority of the half, and they fired 11 shots, 10 of which were on goal. Going into the half, the Sabercats had a two-goal lead and were in total control of themselves, Randall, and the game. They were already sneaking some peeks at the national championship banner.
The halftime message from Head Coach Jeff Pill was "never let up," and the Sabercats followed the instructions to a T. Shot after shot sailed towards the Randall goal, but none of them found the mark. Finally, at the 70-minute mark, the Sabercats found the goal they deserved. Mallory Willette drew a foul in the box, and up stepped Sponable to take the penalty kick. The senior calmed her nerves and fired hard into the back of the net beyond the diving Randall goalkeeper. It was Sponable's second of the game and 60th career goal.
As the 90-minute mark approached, the outcome was inevitable - the Sabercats were in a rhythm, eager to claim the title, and riding the momentum from the first 70 minutes. At the 86-minute mark, Mallory Willette drew another penalty kick, and the game was the Sabercats to win.
Inevitably, Sponable - a senior on her way to an easy hat-trick - stepped toward the penalty mark, but at the last second, turned and trotted towards her own goal and senior McKenna Massey. Massey, a four-year player, has always been a defender was yet to claim the first goal of her career - a career that had just four minutes remaining. Sponable asked Massey to take the kick, and Massey made no mistake. The senior buried her attempt in the top-right corner for her first career goal - in the dying minutes of her coveted national championship win.
That's how the last chapter played out in this story of redemption. This team has gone through heartbreak after heartbreak in the NCCAA postseason, and for the seniors, they had to endure three years of agonizing defeat. But they kept fighting. And now, they have one last victory to celebrate, a banner around their shoulders, and the first national title in program history.
MBU Starters: 0- Wright, 2- Willette, 6- Montgomery, 7- Evans (C), 8- Bishop, 13- Bagin (C), 14- Sponable (C), 15- Massey, 17- Moses, 19- Steuerwald, 20- Hassenplug
Besides being the first NCCAA DII national title in program history, the Sabercats set an NCCAA DII record for the largest margin of victory in a national championship game in the 19-year history of Division II Women's Soccer.
- Shot count: Maranatha 24-3 Randall
- Moses: 8th goal this season
- Sponable: 13th goal of the season; 60th career goal
- Montgomery: 13th career assist
- Massey: 1st career goal
- Last time: Randall won in penalties in the 2016 national third-place game
- Series: Maranatha now leads the all-time series 2-0-1
- Randall won the 2020 NCCAA DII Southwest Region Tournament
- Randall has competed at Nationals every year since 2015
- Randall played just three games during the regular season
This concludes the season for the Sabercats. A full recap of the season will be coming soon at mbusabercats.com.