Falcons Are GNAC Champs Behind Chilczuk's Playmaking
Members of the GNAC champion Falcons pose with the trophy after defeating Western Washington 4-0.
Members of the GNAC champion Falcons pose with the trophy after defeating Western Washington 4-0.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – GNAC Player of the Year Makena Rietz scored twice, Sophia Chilczuk had two assists and the top-seeded Seattle Pacific Falcons won the GNAC Championship 4-0 over the Western Washington Vikings, turning the final match into a rout at Harrington Field in Bellingham. With four assists in the tournament, including one that set the GNAC single-season record, Chilczuk was named the tournament MVP.

The Falcons have now swept all three meetings with their in-state rivals after winning 1-0 in double overtime at Interbay Stadium on Oct. 9 and topping the Vikings 3-0 on the same field on Oct. 21.

Just like in that win, when SPU scored 53 seconds in, the Falcons found the net right after the opening kickoff. Vikings defender Karina Provo tried to head the ball back to goalkeeper Natalie Dierickx, but mishit it, giving sophomore Sophie Beadle a one-on-one breakaway. Beadle made no mistake, slotting the ball into the lower right corner 1:32 into the match, and the Falcons were off and running.

Seattle Pacific had all the chances throughout the first half. Chloe Gellhaus and Chilczuk each had shots in the 18th minute. In the 21st, Beadle was played in down the right flank and sent a low cross into the box that Chilczuk flicked towards the back post, but Claire Neder’s sliding attempt went wide left.

The Falcons doubled their lead in the 24th minute when Beadle crossed from the right side and Rietz got on the end of it with a thumping volley from three yards out. Rietz nearly scored again just a minute later, but her shot was saved by Dierickx to her lower left.

The Vikings were unable to get anything going, not managing a single shot attempt in the first half. The closest opportunity Western Washington had was a Makenzie Burks free kick attempt from the halfway line that SPU goalkeeper Riley Travis punched away before the Vikings could get a head to it. The Falcons had 11 shots in the first half, with four shots on goal.

Western Washington made halftime adjustments and orchastrated a good team build-up play immediately after the second-half kickoff, but Ashley Nguyen’s first shot was blocked before Nguyen put the follow-up wide left. After that initial chance, the ball went right back down to SPU’s offensive end, with Neder cutting inside to deke two defenders in the 48th minute before skying a shot over the bar in the 48th minute.

Two minutes later, the Falcons scored again, once more picking on the left side of the Vikings’ defense. Chilczuk turned around a defender near the end line and sent a left-footed cross that was deflected up in the air by a WWU defender. At the top of the 18-yard box, Gellhaus took a touch to her right and struck a laser across her body that flew into the top right corner. It was Gellhaus’s second goal of the tournament and sixth overall on the season.

Seattle Pacific put the capper on three minutes later in the 53rd. Yet again, Chilczuk found herself free on a right hand side counter-attack and sent a searching low cross into the penalty area. Vikings defender Katie Watt stuck her foot out to stop the ball, but ended up setting the table for an onrushing Rietz to slot the loose ball into an open net that Dierickz had vacated chasing the anticipated cross.

Aside from putting a stamp on the result, that goal was statistically significant for two reasons: first, it allowed Rietz to tie WWU’s Jenna Killman for the conference lead in goals with 12 after Killman took the lead with her hat trick in Thursday’s semifinal against Northwest Nazarene. Secondly, it was Chilczuk’s 17th assist of the season, breaking the single-season conference record of 16 set by SPU’s Meredith Teague in the 2007 campaign.

The tempo of the game slowed down significantly after the fourth goal, but Western Washington had much more positive ball movement in the match’s closing stages. Nguyen, in particular, was dangerous at times for the Vikings, finishing with four shots. Killman flashed attacking ability in the second half, finishing with three shots including two headed attempts in the final 10 minutes. Seattle Pacific outshot the Vikings 18-8 in total and had eight shots on goal to the Vikings’ one, by Burks in the 52nd minute.

The win completes the regular-season and conference Championships double for Seattle Pacific, who has competed in every GNAC Championships since 2012 but hadn’t won it since 2014.

While Seattle Pacific gets the glory today, the season figures to be far from over for both teams. The Falcons will maintain their No. 1 NCAA West Region rankings and host a regional, but Western Washington, which entered the match ranked No. 2, is still a candidate to be the other regional host. Northwest Nazarene will also hope to be one of the six teams selected for the West Regional by the NCAA committee. The selection show for the NCAA championships will be Monday at 3 p.m.