NCAA Champion WWU Women’s Soccer: Team Of The Week
Western Washington secured the second NCAA title in program history on Saturday with a 2-1 win over West Chester with goals from Tera Ziemer and Claire Potter.
Western Washington secured the second NCAA title in program history on Saturday with a 2-1 win over West Chester with goals from Tera Ziemer and Claire Potter.

Monday, December 5, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – After becoming the conference’s latest NCAA champion, the Western Washington women’s soccer team is the GNAC Team of the Week.

The Vikings took a dominant 2-1 win over West Chester on Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd of WWU fans in Seattle at Interbay Stadium to claim the program’s second Division II title exactly six years from its first. The NCAA final appearance was WWU’s third in six years, while the crowd of 1,013 was the seventh largest in NCAA Division II history for a women’s soccer final.

Western Washington defeated No. 2 seed Columbus State 2-1  on Thursday to advance to the final courtesy of sophomore Sophie Bearden Croft’s first two goals of the season. She scored the first goal of the match early in the second half with a low shot that hooked past the Cougars’ goalkeeper in the 49th minute. She followed that up with a tap-in goal in the 76th minute off a cross from freshman midfielder Morgan Manalili.

After a day of rest, the Vikings capped off the season in the best way possible, controlling the run of play all match to claim its 2-1 victory and hoist the trophy. Western Washington showed its prowess from early on, outshooting the No. 1 seed Golden Rams 25-3, including a second half where the defense didn’t allow a single shot.

The Vikings got on the board first again when senior midfielder Tera Ziemer put home a volley from inside the box in the 15th minute. Despite the dominating play of the Vikings, West Chester continued to fight and forced an equalizer in the 25th minute on its first shot of the match to send the teams into halftime tied at 1-1.

Western Washington set the pace again in the second half, generating 15 shots and controlling the midfield play. With the prospect of overtime looming as the clock ticked down, it was freshman forward Claire Potter who sealed the deal with a ball that was perfectly placed into the side netting in the 83rd minute.

“My goal in that moment was just to create another chance,” Potter said after the match. “I sprinted after it and tried to chip the keeper whether somebody else was going to get on the other end of it or not and it ended up in the back of the net.”

The goal marked the first time the Golden Rams have conceded multiple goals all season and proved to be enough to secure the win as the defense stifled any chance of a West Chester comeback.

Western Washington head coach Travis Connell praised the team’s commitment to focusing on the details throughout the season and the postseason run, crediting those efforts as a key to winning the championship.

“When you talk about doing something big, like winning a national title, what we discovered this year is that you’ve got to break it down into small things,” Connell said. “We really wanted to, not win a title, we wanted to win the next play and we wanted to win the next half and we wanted to win the next game. And if we stacked all those things on top of each other, we get to win this game.”

The Vikings finish the season with a 19-2-4 overall record (11-1-2 GNAC) and had four players named to the 2022 NCAA Division II Women’s Soccer Championships All-Tournament Team. Junior forward Estera Levinte led the way, winning Most Outstanding Player honors, and was joined on the all-tournament team by junior defender Katie Watt, junior goalkeeper Claire Henninger and Ziemer.

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