Falcons' Season Over With Quarterfinal Loss
GNAC Player of the Year Makena Rietz (right) battles for possession during an NCAA tournament quarterfinal match against DBU.
GNAC Player of the Year Makena Rietz (right) battles for possession during an NCAA tournament quarterfinal match against DBU.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

DALLAS, Texas. – After a phenomenal season that featured 19 wins, a 15-match unbeaten streak, GNAC regular season and tournament titles and an NCAA West Regional crown, the Seattle Pacific women’s soccer team was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament with a loss to Dallas Baptist University.

Delaney Schmidt’s 52nd-minute goal proved to be the difference for the South Central Region champions, as the No. 5 Patriots defeated the No. 4 Falcons, 1-0.

The Falcons outshot DBU 14-7, including placing four shots on goal to DBU’s three, but could not break through a formidable Patriots back line featuring Lone Star Conference Defensive Player of the Year Blythe Obar and goalkeeper Breanna Bowen. Bowen, a true freshman, was DBU’s third-string goalkeeper to start the season, but injuries forced her into a starting role in the third round of the NCAA tournament. All she’s done since is shut out two Top-10 opponents in No. 9 UC-Colorado Springs and the fourth-ranked Falcons.

As has become their custom, the Falcons pressured the opposing goal immediately after the opening kick-off, with midfielder Claire Neder forcing a save from Bowen just 30 seconds into the match.

Throughout the first half, the Falcons were the more dangerous team, utilizing their favored wing play style of trying to create chances from out wide and send crosses into the box. In the 24th minute, forward Sophia Chilczuk, Division II’s leader in assists, sent a through ball from the right side to GNAC Player of the Year Makena Rietz, who flicked it out into space with her first touch. Right winger Sophie Beadle attempted to cross from near the end line, but her attempt was blocked, kicking off a span in which the Falcons had three corner kicks in one minute.

In the 31st minute, midfielder Chloe Gellhaus had a free-kick opportunity from about 25 yards out, but her shot was saved by Bowen. Two minutes later, a series of quick, one-touch passes from DBU created a golden opportunity for Schmidt, whose 12-yard effort was straight at Riley Travis and held by the SPU keeper.

At the halftime break, SPU was outshooting DBU 7-3 and had the majority of possession. In the second half, however, the Patriots adjusted their offensive strategy, going for long and direct passes rather than short and quick combinations, and looking to beat SPU’s defensive line over the top. A little over six minutes into the second half, it paid off.

Patriots left back Summerlyn Heller chased down one of those long, lofted balls and whipped a cross into the box with her first touch. Schmidt headed it straight down into the ground from point-blank range and bounced in between a lunging Travis and Madison Ibale. The goal was Schmidt’s 15th of the year, tying her with teammate Ashley Merrill for second in the Lone Star conference.

It was just the 11th goal given up by the Falcons all season, and DBU nearly added to the lead in the immediate aftermath. Using their direct strategy, Schmidt timed a run past the Falcons’ high line off a free kick from Obar and volleyed towards goal, but Travis made an incredible save diving to her left to palm the ball out for a corner.

Michelle Gonzales also hit the post with a free kick in the 68th minute for Dallas Baptist. The Patriots looked dangerous for much of a 20-minute span in the second half, but Samea Aljundi and Kathryn Nyone, in particular, made several excellent plays defensively for SPU to snuff out danger.

The Falcons pressed for an equalizer and had several chances as the game drew to a close. Gellhaus forced a save from Bowen in the 77th minute, and Sophie Beadle headed into the back of the net in the 83rd minute, but the goal was disallowed for offside. Rietz had SPU’s last real opportunity in the 87th minute, but her bid for a 14th goal was stopped by Bowen in the bottom right corner.

The loss halts a 10-game win streak and 15-game unbeaten streak for SPU, the program’s longest since closing their 2008 national championship season with a run of 17 straight. The Falcons were denied the program’s fourth trip to the Final Four since that 2008 campaign. It is the first time Dallas Baptist has reached the Final Four.