Tournament Preview: Simon Fraser Joins Playoff Party
Giuliana Zaurrini (No. 7) booted 12 shots (seven on target) against Western Oregon, and one of them found the net in the 105th minute.
Giuliana Zaurrini (No. 7) booted 12 shots (seven on target) against Western Oregon, and one of them found the net in the 105th minute.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

After storming through its GNAC schedule, Seattle Pacific won its first regular-season conference championship since 2011 and will be the No. 1 seed in the 2021 GNAC Women’s Soccer Championships, hosted by Western Washington from Nov. 11-13.

The Falcons will play No. 4 seed Simon Fraser in the tournament-opening semifinal at 4 p.m., while No. 2 seed and host Western Washington and No. 3 Northwest Nazarene will meet in the other semifinal at 7 p.m.

Seattle Pacific won the conference title with a 12-1-1 GNAC record for 37 points, six points ahead of second-place Western Washington. They lead the conference in goals (54), assists (49) and goals allowed (7), and enter the championships on a six-game win streak.

The Vikings, winners of seven of the past eight regular-season titles and the 2019 GNAC Championships, finished second this year with a 10-3-1 conference record. They rank second in the conference in goals (36), assists (36) and goals allowed (11), while leading the GNAC in shots (400) and corner kick opportunities (133).

The Nighthawks are snapping the longest tournament drought of the four teams, making their first GNAC Championships appearance since 2017 after going 8-4-2 in conference play to finish third. Simon Fraser clinched their first Championships berth since 2018 after tallying a 6-7-1 conference record.

The Falcons went a perfect 6-0-0 this season against the other three teams who qualified for the Championships, including two wins against Simon Fraser. Seattle Pacific won 2-0 at home in Seattle, before winning 3-0 north of the border behind two goals from Makena Rietz and three assists from Sophia Chilczuk. Those performances were par for the course all season, as Rietz led the conference with 10 goals while Chilczuk recorded six goals and 13 assists for a GNAC-leading 25 points. Riley Travis kept both shutouts against SFU, two of her nine for the season. Travis allowed six goals in nearly 1,300 minutes for a 0.42 goals against average.

Western Washington and Northwest Nazarene split their two regular season meetings. The Vikings won 1-0 at Harrington Field before the Nighthawks responded with a 2-1 win in Idaho. That victory was Northwest Nazarene’s first over WWU since 2003 and broke what had been an 18-game Vikings win streak in the all-time series. The Nighthawks will have the chance to spoil another streak this weekend: Western Washington has advanced to the championship match in all nine previous years that the GNAC Championships have been held, including tournament wins in 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019.

The Vikings have received contributions from Jenna Killman, who has nine goals, two assists and a conference-leading 66 shots, Tera Ziemer, who has six goals in her debut season with WWU and Darby Doyle, who recorded four goals and five assists while becoming the Vikings’ all-time leader in games played. Goalkeeper Natalie Dierickx recorded a 0.60 goals against average and seven shutouts.

Northwest Nazarene returns to the Championships on the back of sophomore forward Madison Grande, who has nine goals and is second in the GNAC with 61 shots. The Nighthawks lead all schools by earning six GNAC Player of the Week awards, including two by Grande and three by goalkeeper Alexis Montoya, who leads the conference with 95 saves.

Simon Fraser clinched the No. 4 seed on the final day of the season, playing a de-facto winner-take-all match against fifth-place Western Oregon. That match was tied 0-0 until double overtime, when Giuliana Zaurrini converted a 105th-minute penalty kick to send SFU to the GNAC Championships. Zaurrini leads Simon Fraser with four goals and two assists. Simon Fraser is the most disciplined team in the conference, averaging a GNAC-low 7.59 fouls per match.

In potential championship match head-to-heads, Seattle Pacific won the season series 2-0-0 against both Western Washington and Northwest Nazarene. Western Washington won both their matchups against Simon Fraser, but SFU got the better of Northwest Nazarene with a win and a tie against the Nighthawks.

The championship match will be Saturday at 1 p.m. The winner of the GNAC Championships will receive the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division II Women’s Soccer Regionals.

GNAC CHAMPIONSHIPS INFORMATION

The GNAC Women’s Soccer Championships, hosted by Western Washington, will take place Nov. 11-13 and at Harrington Field in Bellingham.
The top four teams in the regular season GNAC standings qualify for the championships. Two semifinals, between the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds and the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, will be contested on Thursday, Nov. 11 before a championship match on Saturday, Nov. 13 to determine the GNAC’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division II regionals.

Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased by going to GNACTickets.com. Only 500 tickets will be sold for each of the Thursday and Saturday sessions. Advanced tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors (65 and older), students (high school and college) and children ages 3-12. Children under the age of two are admitted free. All tickets will be $2 more if purchased on site at the gate.

In order to ensure the safety of everyone in attendance at the GNAC Women’s Soccer Championships, face masks are to be worn at all times regardless of vaccination status. This includes spectators, volunteers and staff. The only exception is for student-athletes actively participating in the contest.

All three matches of the GNAC Women’s Soccer Championships will be streamed live at GNAC.tv. Andrew Harvey will provide the play-by-play with Jim Harvey providing analysis.