The VWC Women’s Soccer team went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. The Marlins played Brandeis University at The College of New Jersey on Nov. 12.
Despite losing in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Tournament Championship to Washington and Lee, the Marlins finished the year with 11 wins, 5 losses and 3 draws. The selection committee took notice of their strength and record and rewarded them with an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. It was the tenth time the Marlins made an NCAA tournament appearance. VWC joined Washington and Lee University and Lynchburg College, who also received an at large bid, and represented the ODAC. This was the first time since 2009 that three teams from the same conference made the NCAA tournament.
“The feeling is honestly amazing, we (senior class) would have been the first class under Coach (Jeff) Bowers to not make the NCAA Tournament, so continuing the winning tradition is huge,” senior defender Amanda Baxter said.
The Marlins are coming off an ODAC tournament where they beat the seventh best team in the ODAC, Randolph Macon College, in the quarterfinals by a score of 3-0. The goal scorers for the Marlins were Annie Hartman, Marli Hayward and Ryan Applewhite.
The semi finals of the ODAC Tournament with the third best team in the ODAC Tournament, Lynchburg College, is also ranked #12 in the county. Coming into the tournament, Lynchburg has won the last six ODAC Titles, including a National Championship in 2014. This year was different because the Marlins came out victorious over the Hornets in a tight affair of a score of 1-0.
Marli Hayward beat Lynchburg’s All American defender and blasted a shot into the lower corner of the net for the game winner in minute 27. Lynchburg did not go down without a fight as they had a great chance in minute 73 but Marlins’ keeper Taylor Chapman would not allow the Hornets to even the contest as she made a diving save for the Marlins. The victory was sweet for all Marlins past and present as the VWC Women’s Soccer Twitter and Instagram accounts posted a picture of the scoreboard with the caption: “This is for you alumni.”
“It felt really good. We haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here so it was really awesome beating them my senior year and getting payback on them for ending so many of my seasons,” said senior defender Abigal Nickle.
In the Marlins’ first ODAC Championship appearance in 2011, they fell behind 2-0 to the top seeded Generals of Washington and Lee in the first half, but did not give up. In minute 69, Annie Hartman drew the Marlins within a goal as she gathered at the top of the box and beat the Generals’ keeper. Although the energy level rose for the Marlins, they were only able to get one more shot on net when Hartman tested the goalie in the minute 78.
Even after coming off the loss, the Marlins looked forward to another chance in the NCAA Tournament and prove they belong.
“We’re all really excited to have another chance at continuing our season. We have a good sense of how the games will be because we’ve already played a couple teams that are also in the tournament but we definitely know we have to take each game seriously and work extra hard if we want to have a positive outcome,” Moffett said.
Junior Zoe Traficante, Freshman Marli Hayward and Senior Annie Hartman earned All-Tournament Team. More post-season accolades came in for the Marlins as Traficante was named First Team All-ODAC. Moffett, Hayward and junior Alexia Vassilliadis were placed on the Second Team. Freshmen Taylor Chapman and Ryan McCurry were named to the Third Team.
The Marlins have improved steadily from a year ago where they went 11-10 overall and 8-3 in conference play. After losing four seniors, the core of the team had more experience and some added talent from the freshman class made the Marlins a force to be reckoned with as they are currently 12 wins, 5 losses, and 3 draws and did not lose a regular season ODAC contest. The Championship loss was the Marlins’ first loss since dropping an Oct. 8 contest to Catholic University.
The Marlins opponent, Brandeis University, who also received an At-Large Bid, is located in Waltham, Massachusetts and a member of the University Athletic Association (UAA). They came into the match up with the Marlins at 13-3-3 but finished the season scuffling at 1-3-2 after starting 12-0-1 and climbing as high as #8 in the national rankings.
The Marlins took on the Judges at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 and a live stream was available through vwcathletics.com
“The best feeling was realizing that my soccer career isn’t over yet,” Baxter said.