The Providence Pilots women’s soccer team is heading back to the National Christian College Athletic Association’s Division II National Championship. After a thrilling, extra-time triumph in the North Region final on Saturday, the Pilots will now make their second successive trip to the Greenville, SC tournament.
That said, they’re hoping it’s not quite déjà vu at Bob Jones University.
A year ago, after beating Grand Rapids, MI’s Grace Christian University Tigers, Providence lost 1-0 to the Bob Jones Bruins in the championship match. Incredibly, they’ll also face the Tigers in one of this year’s semi-finals on November 16, and a rematch with the Bruins could await the following day. The host team will take on Moore, OK’s Randall University Saints in the other final four encounter.
Makayla Meyer scored twice and set up Kisty Yashuk’s tally as the Pilots exploded for three goals after the 70-minute mark against the Faith Baptist Bible College Eagles on November 2. Then, in the Watertown, WI North Region final against the Maranatha Baptist University Sabercats, Sofia Beltrame’s 90th-minute equalizer sent the contest to extra time, where Katerina Cook converted from the spot after a foul on Myer.
Following the dramatic finish, Beltrame revealed that a return to Greenville had been the Pilots’ objective all season.
“Winning regionals and making it to nationals for the second year in a row has been our goal since before the season even started,” she said. “Scoring the goal that tied the game in the last minute as a feeling like no other! I was so overwhelmed with joy and relief, and I couldn’t be prouder of our team.”
Head coach Tory Walker also expressed his pride in winning another North Region title, pointing to his team’s intangibles over the course of the weekend.
“Our team was up to the challenge and showed great character and belief,” he said. “I am a proud coach and am grateful for the opportunity to coach such a great team and a great group of women. Each week this team has gotten better and has grown, and I’m excited to see how we perform again at nationals.”
Meyer, who was exceptional over the two matches, was named to the NCCAA All-Region team, as were Raychel Algera and Claire Yager (pictured).
The Pilots men also advanced to Saturday’s North Region final, edging Maranatha 1-0 in their semi-final thanks to a Braeden Owen free kick. Herby Magny’s penalty then help send them to extra time against Faith Baptist Bible College, where they struck the woodwork before losing on penalties.
“The guys left their hearts on the field and we just came up short,” analyzed head coach Joey Passi. “In an incredibly even game, it came down to inches. It hurts to go out when we were so close. I think we would have competed for the national championship, but I’m proud of the guys. It was a fun year.”
As part of their participation at the National Championship, the Providence women will take part in the event’s annual Christian Service Project. This year the student-athletes and coaches will do crafts with assisted living residents and make placements for Greenville Children’s Hospital.