Late Header Lifts Vikings To Tough Semifinal Victory
There was plenty to celebrate on Thursday as Western Washington tallied a pair of second half goals to knock off Simon Fraser.
There was plenty to celebrate on Thursday as Western Washington tallied a pair of second half goals to knock off Simon Fraser.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

PORTLAND – Less than a week removed from clinching the GNAC's regular-season title, No. 6 Western Washington returned to the pitch and earned a 2-1 victory over fourth-seeded Simon Fraser in the semifinals of the 2018 GNAC Women's Soccer Championships. 

The first semifinal of the day featured a flurry of three goals in the final 40 minutes, with the winner coming off the head of forward Emily Bunnell in the match's 82nd minute. The Clan got a couple of good looks in the waning moments of the contest but were unable to secure an equalizer, sending the tournament's top seed into Saturday afternoon's title match.

After a defensive struggle in the first half, Vikings defender Lindsey Fujiwara opened the scoring five minutes into the second half with her first goal of the season. After securing the ball far outside the box, Fujiwara dribbled to about 35 yards out and fired a long-distance chip shot over the head of the SFU goalkeeper.

"We got the ball off a throw-in," said Fujiwara when asked about the play. "I got the ball, saw the one-on-one opportunity with some space and decided to hit the shot to see what happened."

It took nearly a half hour, but Simon Fraser was able to pull even in the match's 80th minute. 

After a few close misses, the No. 4 seed found its lone goal of the evening when midfielder Samantha Donald fired a rebounded ball past multiple defenders and the WWU keeper. The goal was Donald's second of the season.

It didn't take long for Western Washington to grab the lead right back as the attacking Viking offense secured a free kick with just over eight minutes remaining. On a perfect pass sent in from defender Taylor Hallquist, Bunnell was able to locate the ball and head it strongly into the back of the net to send her team on to the final.

The Clan were able to create a couple scoring chances down the stretch but only got one shot off in the contest's final eight minutes. That shot was promptly scooped up and dove on by goalkeeper and GNAC Newcomer of the Year Natalie Dierickx, who tallied three saves to secure her 16th win of the year.

The tournament's top seed outshot SFU 17-7 and doubled its opponents looks on goal (8-4). Forwards Talia Daigle and Dayana Diaz tallied three shots a piece, while midfielder Katelyn Erhardsen tallied three for Simon Fraser.

Western Washington improved to 16-2-1 on the season while the Clan fell to 10-6-1. It was WWU who took both meetings against their rivals from across the border this season, with the Championships victory following a 1-0 win back in September.

The Vikings advanced to their seventh-straight GNAC Championships title match with the win. They will face the winner of the second semifinal match between Concordia and Seattle Pacific.

"We know what to expect from both teams," Fujiawara said. "They're both very talented so we'll be ready to compete."

Kickoff for Saturday's GNAC Championships final is set for 3:30 p.m. at Tuominen Yard in Portland.