The Women’s Soccer team entered the Final Four for the first time since 2006. They lost 0-3 against Case Western Reserve University in Salem, Va. on Friday, Dec. 2.
“Respect or no respect, we play to prove everyone wrong,” junior goalkeeper Ashleigh Lockard said.
Four wins, three nationally ranked teams, two shutouts and a round of penalty kicks were the stepping stones that led the Virginia Wesleyan Women’s Soccer team to the Final Four of the 2022 NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship on Friday, Dec. 2.
“Honestly, there was no better feeling. I feel like I can speak for every college athlete that plays in the NCAA tournament when I say it is something special. Making it to the final four was really huge for us, since we’ve worked hard all season to get there,” junior goalkeeper Rachel Quigley said.
Quigley also mentioned how it was a testament to their team’s hard work and talent. “While it was a unique experience, as none of us on the team had ever made it to this point yet in our college careers, it was awesome to experience with this team, the coaching staff and certainly, the fans who were with us every step of the way,” Quigley said.
The Marlins’ last time in the Final Four was in 2006, when the team played against and lost to the Thunder of Wheaton College (Illinois) 0-2. The Marlins finished their 2006 season with a record of 18-4-4.
This year, the Marlins faced some steep competition. Defeating the University of Puget Sound, Rowan University and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse secured their spot in the Elite Eight and the only thing that stood in the way of the Final Four were the Captains of Christopher Newport University.
The Captains, ranked No. 3 nationally at the time, were the defending national champions and were responsible for one of two losses for the Marlins this season. The Marlins were looking to flip the script, and that they did.
A tight game went into two 10-minute overtimes and a round of penalty kicks (PKs). However, junior goalkeeper Rachel Quigley stopped two shots by the Captains, leading to a 4-3 victory in PKs. The Marlins did it. They made it to the Final Four and took down the defending national champions.
“Just to make the final was an incredible experience. We worked hard all season to get there, and the early mornings and the long practices were worth it,” Lockard said. “Coach Bowers talked about respect all year and how the only people who believed in the team were us, the school and our family. We were on a mission to prove everyone wrong and I hope we did just that.”
Respect was a big part of the Marlins this season, as they were seen as the underdogs coming into the tournament. However, the small support group of the team, their families and the Marlin nation fans were enough for the Marlins to make the run to the Final Four.
On Dec. 2, the Women’s Soccer team took the field to play the No. 4 Spartans of Case Western Reserve University. Unfortunately, the Marlins ended their NCAA Championship run after falling to the Spartans, 0-3, but nonetheless, they ended with a successful season for the team.
“While I think this season was helpful in recognizing that our team is one of the best in the country, we aren’t done yet,” Quigley said. “I think there are still teams out there that don’t respect us and that’s what motivates us to play and work so hard for each other.”
Quigley said while they were the underdogs for some of the NCAA tournament, she thinks they proved that no matter who you are playing, they should always be given respect. “While we did gain some respect, making it this far in the NCAA tournament, we are far from being complacent and there is still more respect to be earned,” Quigley said.
Two key highlights from the season include a trio of Marlins garnering All-Region Honors. Senior keeper Rachel Quigley and senior defender Sam Crawford were two of 13 players who received Region IV first-team, and freshman forward Shyenne Diaz received All-Region second-team.
In addition, Quigley was named one of the 2022 United Soccer Coaches Association All-Americans, representing the All-American third-team.
Though the season has come to an end, the Marlins are continuing to keep their eyes on one day hoisting up the NCAA championship tournament.
“This season will be one I won’t forget,” Lockard said.
By Shirell Washington