KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The Grace College women’s soccer team played to a scoreless draw with Point Loma Nazarene in the opening game of pool play at NCCAA Nationals Monday.
The match featured strong defensive performances by both sides, including a few strong saves by senior Carmen Barnhill.
Grace was strong in possession in the first half, limiting the Sea Lions’ offensive possessions. The Lady Lancers (11-6-3) had the best look of the opening period when a long free kick was directed dangerously toward PLNU’s goal. The Sea Lions’ goalkeeper punched the ball above the crossbar, however.
Emily Hickerson made a fast run down the right sideline in the first 15 minutes of the game, but her cross was intercepted in the penalty box.
The teams entered the halftime break scoreless with PLNU holding a slight 3-2 advantage in shots. Each side attempted one corner kick.
The offensive play was much more dynamic to start the second half. Mallory Rondeau split a few Sea Lion (11-7-2) defenders in the middle of the field and nearly had a breakaway before being caught.
Hickerson had a golden opportunity with 20 minutes to play when Rondeau found her in space at the top of the penalty box. But Hickerson’s touch was too strong, allowing PLNU’s goalie to squelch her run.
Carmen Barnhill made a spectacular save to keep PLNU off the scoreboard, diving to her right to fend away a shot on goal with 15 minutes remaining. The senior goalkeeper had another outstanding save five minutes later.
With less than two minutes remaining, Grace nearly won the game with the best chance of the match. Holly Bennett played Rondeau through the Sea Lions’ defense with an acrobatic pass on the left side of the field. Rondeau crossed to freshman Maile Grout at the far post, but her shot under pressure was wide.
PLNU had a last-second free kick near the top of the box that glanced off the crossbar, preserving the 0-0 draw.
As a team Grace was outshot 11-4. Heather Martin, Faith Voehringer, Lauren Becker, Erica Manchess and Jalisa Thayer combined to help Carmen Barnhill record her seventh shutout of the season. Barnhill had six saves on the evening.
The Lady Lancers face a rematch with Judson University on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the final pool play game. Grace, who beat Judson 2-1 on Aug. 22, will hope to win and secure an automatic bid to Friday’s semifinals.