Junior Bethany Balcer scored a golden goal with 1:47 remaining in the second overtime period to propel top-seeded Spring Arbor University to a 2-1 comeback victory over second-seeded Marian University in of the Crossroads League Women’s Soccer Tournament Championship on Saturday afternoon at the Cougar Soccer Complex.
The win gave the Cougars their eighth straight conference tournament title and secures their spot in the 2017 NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship, which is slated to begin next weekend.
FINAL SCORE: #3 Spring Arbor 2, #14 Marian 1
LOCATION: Cougar Soccer Complex | Spring Arbor, Mich.
RECORDS: Spring Arbor 19-1-1, Marian 15-3-3
HOW IT HAPPENED
Just like the matchup in Indianapolis two weeks ago, Marian drew first blood, scoring in the 26th minute. A failed clear attempt by the Cougars resulted in a turnover and a long range shot from MU’s Kellie Cavanaugh, which got redirected off a defender and into the back of the net.
Spring Arbor had a hard time finding its rhythm against a tough and physical Marian squad, but the Cougars continued to apply pressure looking for the equalizer. SAU nearly leveled the score in the 68th minute when a corner kick from Sarah Klunder found the head of Renee Broekhuizen, but her header was kept out by a Knight defender.
However, moments later the Cougars found the goal they needed. Aubrey Schierbeek served a cross into the box and Broekhuizen beat the MU goalkeeper with an amazing diving header to even the game at 1-1.
Marian had two dangerous chances in the final minutes of regulation, but Ashley Timmons made a pair of outstanding saves from in close.
With penalty kicks looming after a scoreless first overtime period and eight minutes of scoreless action in the second extra period, Balcer delivered the game-winner to clinch the victory. Broekhuizen sent in a cross and Balcer finished with a header.
Spring Arbor collected 17 shots compared to Marian’s nine. The Cougars also held a 7-3 edge in corner kicks. Timmons finished the afternoon with four saves.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
SAU Women’s Soccer captured its eighth consecutive Crossroads League Tournament title. The Cougars secure the league’s automatic bid to the national tournament.
SAU also defeated Marian in the 2015 and 2016 league tournament championship matches. Balcer scored her 10th game-winning goal of the season. That mark ranks first in the NAIA. The tally by Broekhuizen was her ninth of the season, matching her career-high for single-season goals.
QUOTES FROM HEAD COACH JASON CRIST
“Our players continue to show what they’re made of. After giving up a somewhat unlucky goal in the first half, they dug in their heels and played like the champions that they are.”
“Renee Broekhuizen was the player of the match for us tonight. Top class goal on a diving header and dos all the little things for us so well.”
“Full credit to Marian. They are a fantastic team deserving of their ranking and are very difficult to play against.”
After besting Asbury in the NAIA Championship opening round, SAU will face the winner of the Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) and Science & Arts (Okla.) matchup at the Orange Beach Sportsplex on Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 12 p.m. ET.