Championship Performance Worthy Of Weekly Honor
Western Washington scored multiple goals in all seven playoff victories this season.
Western Washington scored multiple goals in all seven playoff victories this season.

Monday, December 5, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Western Washington women’s soccer avenged last year’s season-ending loss to Grand Valley State, beating the three-time defending national champion 3-2 on Saturday to claim the first NCAA Division II national championship in program history, a performance worthy of Red Lion/GNAC Team of the Week recognition.

About five weeks before Saturday’s national championship match, GNAC Coach of the Year Travis Connell wrote the number seven on the white board in the women’s soccer locker room, representing the number of wins the Vikings needed to claim the title.

Western Washington got the first five wins, winning the GNAC Championships in the process, to return to the NCAA semifinals for the third time in four years. Then on Thursday, the Vikings beat Kutztown, the Atlantic Region champions, 3-0 to advance to the first national championship match in program history, where they defeated Grand Valley State, 3-2.

“This national championship means a lot to me, to our players and to our school,” Connell said. “Winning this national championship means I had the privilege to coach fantastic players. They showed a ton of character, they performed well and every time Grand Valley got back in the game, we had an answer. It’s because of the character of the players on our team.”

In the national championship, Western Washington got two goals from senior Caitlyn Jobanek, who was playing in her program record-tying 91st career match. The Lakers responded to both goals to even the score at 2-2, but shortly after Emily Webster scored the game-winning goal. Webster took a free kick with her left foot and placed it perfectly into the upper right corner of the goal to take a 3-2 lead. The Vikings didn’t allow GVSU to take a shot for the rest of the match to secure the national title.

“We practice free kicks every day,” Webster said. “From that distance, we usually try to shoot straight into the goal, and I missed the first one, so I was hoping to get the second one. Once I made it, it was just pure joy.”

In the semifinal match, the Vikings took an NCAA tournament record 35 shots and didn’t allow Kutztown to get a single shot off. Becca Cates scored the first goal in the 25th minute and then Gabriela Pelogi and Jordyn Bartelson each scored in second half. Pelogi finishes the season with 11 goals and seven assists with six of those goals coming during the postseason. The Vikings scored at least two goals in every playoff match en route to the championship and have done so in nine consecutive playoff matches dating back to the 2015 season.

The Vikings wrap up the 2016 season with a 24-0-1 record, which is the new GNAC record for most wins in a single season, breaking the record set by the 2007 Seattle Pacific team that was the last GNAC team to claim a national championship. The Vikings also broke Seattle Pacific’s record for longest winning streak by a GNAC team with the 24 consecutive wins.