Lamoni, IA - The Graceland women's soccer team will take home a HAAC championship after downing Benedictine College at the Razz, 2-0.
The Yellowjackets made their presence felt with an authoritative early goal by Sydney Nolan. Yuli Munoz's header gave Nolan a crystal clear opportunity to hammer the ball into the net past the Benedictine keeper.
A growing and already raucous GU crowd exploded, setting the tone for the night as the Yellowjacket holy ground became a cage the Ravens could not escape.
Gisela Arrieta tucked in another goal in the 33rd minute to give Graceland a 2-0 lead as the Jacket attack pounded the Benedictine defense, and GU affirmed their iron grip on the game's momentum.
The Ravens mounted an enthusiastic attack on the Yellowjacket area in the final two minutes of the half, but a number of good opportunities for the visitors came to naught as the Graceland's defense stiffened against a barrage of shots.
"To get on the board early and set the tone felt so amazing," said Nolan after the game. The sophomore forward tallied four shots in the game, and was one for one on her shots on goal.
GU was outshot by their guests throughout the game, and entered the half down 11-7 in the shot category despite having the contest firmly in hand.
In the second period the home squad downshifted and settled into an iron curtain of defense around goalkeeper Stefany Castano Cardozo. The Colombian international corralled 16 saves on the evening off 28 Benedictine attempts. Graceland held off a brave effort by the Ravens in the second period with a stingy defensive performance.
"We all believe in each other so much; we believe in ourselves and our team," said Cardozo. "When we step on the field, we want to leave everything out there. I can't take credit for this performance when there is such an amazing back line to protect the goal."
The Jacket women were limited in their attempts, but had sniper-like precision. The team drained two of their six shots on goal out of ten shots.
Graceland advances to their fifth consecutive NAIA playoff tourney, and the second HAAC title in coach Fred Wagenaar's career.
"It's good to get into the NAIA post season on our own terms instead of backing into it," said Wagenaar. "Exhilarating win for us. We came out and played our best ball of the year. This was an incredible effort by the whole team. I do not have words to describe how proud I am; we defeated a fantastic Benedictine team."
The Jackets are now 2-0 in post-season play. Graceland will proceed to the NAIA tournament, with information about the brackets to come Monday afternoon.
Stay tuned to GUjackets.com for continuing coverage of the Lady Jackets' post-season journey, and for all GU athletics.
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