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Vengeance can be a beautiful thing — just ask the Weber State University women’s soccer team. After losing by two in a heartbreaking and somewhat controversial home game less than a month ago against Portland State University, the Wildcats faced the Vikings in the Big Sky Championship match and came away victorious, winning 3-0 in penalties.
The game marked the third consecutive time that the championship match went into penalties to decide its victor.
While both teams battled ferociously throughout the 110 minutes of play, neither got one shot across the goal line. WSU had eights shots, with four of those on frame during regulation, whereas PSU had 15 shots, six of which were on goal but were stopped by senior goalkeeper Ryann Waldman.
“We played a tremendous last 30 of the first half,” said WSU head coach Tim Crompton. “But give PSU credit: They came to play in the second half, but so did we.”
Due to both teams’ inability to get the job done in regulation, Waldman had to step up again and stop penalty kicks while trusting in her teammates to do just the opposite and knock in a few goals past PSU goalkeeper Caitlin Plese, who had the highest save percentage of any keeper in the conference.
Sophomore forward Stacy Bair, who scored one of the three goals against Northern Arizona University in the semifinals two days earlier, stepped up for WSU, drawing first blood to make the score 1-0. Afterward, Tamia Hansen missed PSU’s first attempt with a shot over the net.
Chansi Crompton took the next shot for the Wildcats and converted to put them up 2-0. Waldman then did her part by blocking PSU’s Abbey Bergquist’s attempt.
To seal the deal, WSU needed another goal followed by another miss or block from PSU. The Wildcats had several player options to take the pivotal third shot. Some might have considered Mackenzie Harrison to be the clear choice, especially after leading her team in goals and winning the offensive MVP just two days earlier. Another option was Mackenzie “Tiger” Day, who has the highest shot percentage for the Wildcats at 25 percent.
However, while Harrison and Day were slotted for the fourth and fifth shots, Bailey Eames took the third shot after having no goals throughout the entire season.
“When we were deciding who was going to take penalty kicks, I initially was really nervous,” Eames said. “I said I wasn’t sure if I should, but we’ve been practicing for two weeks now, and I knew I should step up. I’m a senior, and tonight was my night to put a stamp on a game and get us a win.”
She converted the attempt, leaving one save from Waldman to claim the victory. Cori Bianchini from PSU took the Vikings’ third attempt in an effort to keep their championship dream alive, but Waldman had nothing of it.
“I tried to be as big and intimidating as I could be before the show,” Waldman said. “All I knew is that if my teammates were going to make their shots, I was going to save Portland State’s shots.”
That she did, giving the Wildcats their third title in the Big Sky.
For her efforts on the line, Waldman earned tournament MVP honors for not allowing a single goal throughout tournament play.
Going into the match, PSU was undefeated throughout conference play, while WSU carried in a 5-2-2 record in conference play with losses to PSU and Southern Utah University.
WSU will now head to the NCAA College Cup with a trip down I-15 to face the Cougars of Brigham Young University this Friday at 5 p.m. BYU is 15-0-1 all-time versus WSU.
“I think BYU is a good first-round opponent for us,” said senior Sarah Thurston. “Playing in Provo against BYU is something we’ve done before, so it’s familiar to us. We can focus on what we know how to do without all the nerves, and we will have a lot of fans there to cheer us on.”