Women’s Soccer surges into NCAA Tournament

Featured Image: The Marlins began the ODAC Championship Tournament at home against the Hornets of Shenandoah University on Oct. 31. Ross Winner | Marlin Chronicle

After finishing the regular season undefeated in conference play, the Virginia Wesleyan Women’s soccer team secured the No. 1 seed for the ODAC (Old Dominion Athletic Conference) tournament. The team went in with a simple goal, to win and lock up the automatic spot to go to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament. The past three seasons, the Marlins have been in the final, but last season they lost to the University of Lynchburg in penalty kicks on home turf. 

As the No.1 seed, they hosted the entire tournament. Senior midfielder Julia Marrone commented on the importance of having the opportunity to host the entire tournament. “Traveling isn’t always ideal before a big game, especially when you have a long bus ride, which is often mentally and physically draining. Hosting the tournament helped eliminate that for us,” Marrone said. 

The tournament began with the quarterfinals on Oct. 31 when No.8 seed Shenandoah University came to Foster Field at the Tassos Paphites Soccer Complex. The lone goal came late, and it came from first-year Janessa Lowe in the 86th minute. 

Having won the first game, next came No. 4 seed Bridgewater College in the semifinal, which took place on Nov. 3. This game was a more decisive game for the Marlins with a 2-0 victory.

This set up the final between the Marlins and No. 3 seed, Washington and Lee University. The hero in that game was Marrone who scored the only goal of the game in the 25th minute. “First and foremost, I want to give credit to my teammates, especially Alaina Alston, who fought to get a tough 50/50 ball loose and drop it right in front of me,” Marrone said. 

When Marrone saw the ball go into the back of the net, she couldn’t believe it. “The excitement and relief I felt to be able to put us on the scoreboard first was something I will never forget,” Marrone said. 

Despite numerous scoring opportunities made by the Generals, senior goalkeeper Rachel Quigley was able to save them all and crown the Marlins champions. Miller, Quigley and sophomore Sheyenne Diaz were named to the ODAC All-Tournament team and grad student defender was named most outstanding player. 

Next came the NCAA tournament, where the Marlins were drawn as hosts. The first game the Marlins played was against Montclair State University out of New Jersey. Letting up an early goal, the Marlins came storming back to take the lead with goals from Diaz and Miller before the game finished in a tie. 

Without any goals in either overtime period, the game came down to a penalty shootout. Montclair State missed their first four kicks, while VWU only made one of their first four. It came down to Gunther who made it for the Marlins, booking a date with the defending national champions, the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, in the regional final. 

This is the second year in a row the Marlins have played the defending national champions in the NCAA tournament. Last season the Marlins defeated the 2021 National Champion Christopher Newport University to advance to the final four. Despite a heavy dominance of possession from Johns Hopkins in the first half, the score remained 0-0 going into the start of the second half before goals from Miller and Diaz. The Marlins took down the defending national champions 2-1. 

“It was definitely an amazing accomplishment for the team. We put in so much hard work and dedication, and it showed on the field,” senior defender Rachel Wilson said. Senior goalkeeper Ashleigh Lockard echoed similar words to Wilson, “If any team can beat a defending national champ, it’s this team,” Lockard said. 

The Marlins booked a date with No. 1 seed CNU on Nov. 18 in Newport News, Virginia.

“We’re all excited to play CNU again. We are not the same team we were when we played them in preseason,” Wilson said. 

It has been Marrone’s goal all year to make an impact on her coaches and team. “I love this team and everything we have accomplished together over the past four years and feel so blessed to have played a role in our success,” Marrone said.


By: Colette Kearney