SAN ANTONIO — The William Smith Herons captured the NCAA Division III women’s soccer championship with a 2-0 victory against the hometown Trinity (Texas) Tigers Saturday in front of more than 1,000 fans at Toyota Field.
William Smith, competing in its fourth NCAA final, and the first since 1997, completed the season with a 23-1-0 record. Trinity, a first-time finalist, wrapped up the campaign with a 25-1-2 mark.
Herons junior forward Madeline Buckley opened the scoring in the game, with a goal in the 11th minute of play, on an assist first-year forward Kara Shue, who was named to the all-tournament team. The first goal would prove to be the game winner for the Herons.
The Tigers led the first half 12-5 in total shots, and held a 3-2 on the frame. William Smith senior All-America goalkeeper Chelsea Dunay, an all-tournament recipient, registered three of her nine saves in the opening period.
“This is what we’ve been working for all season,” Dunay said. “It just goes to show that every day of practice, and every single day of the offseason, and every day of the summer we put in the hard work, and it pays off. The dynamic mix of the team this year was incredible. If you have fight, and you have heart, you can go far.”
Junior forward Krista Long, the Tournament Outstanding Offensive Player, scored on a solo shot in the 52nd minute, as the Herons took a 2-0 lead.
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Herons coach Aliceann Wilber, in her 34th season at the helm, previously guided the team to the championship in 1988. William Smith was also in the championship match-up in 1987 and ’97.
“At halftime we talked about things we had to tighten up,” said Wilber, whose Herons beat Capital 1-0 in Friday’s semifinals. “Trinity has a lot of movement, and they cycle a lot of players. I think we got caught in the first half retreating a little bit under that pressure. We stiffened up our spine in the second half.”
Senior All-America defender Olivia Zitoli was named Tournament Outstanding Defensive Player. Also named to the all-tournament team from William Smith was sophomore midfielder Zoe Eth.
The Tigers, led by 10th-year head coach Lance Key, gave it their all for the many Tiger fans who braved temperatures which hovered uncharacteristically in the 30s.
Trinity, which defeated Middlebury 2-1 in the semifinals, led the nation in scoring offense coming into the tournament, and was sixth in goals-against average. Wiliam Smith was second in the GAA category.
“[William Smith] haven’t given up much in the entire NCAAs,” Key said. “We knew we were going to be challenged and stretched today. We didn’t control things well on the play they scored on,and we got behind and in a tough spot. We created some good chances, but we didn’t create enough great chances.”
Four Tiger players were selected for the all-tournament team, including junior All-America midfielder Emily Jorgens, who tied the NCAA DIII women’s single-season assists record (30) in the win against Middlebury. Also selected for the team were junior defenders Kirby Peddicord and Shelby Hopkins, along with junior All-America midfielder Kelsey Falcone.
“They had an early goal, and that hurt our spirit a little bit,” Falcone said. “But I’m proud of the way we fought through the entire game. They were a great team, but it just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. We definitely had the chances, but today it just wasn’t falling.”