"I really don't know if words can express what I feel right now," Lee head women's soccer coach Matt Yelton said. "To be in this spot and do something that nobody has ever done; I didn't do it, my team did it. It's just such a unique occasion that it's hard to describe the achievement in and of itself."
The Lady Flames finish the season with a final record of 23-2-0. Concordia, who was making its third appearance in the title game, concludes its campaign with a 19-5-1 mark.
"This team has battled, they challenged and they have worked for each other," Yelton said. "I told them in the huddle that it's not the wins and losses at the end of the day, it's the fact that they did this as a group. It wasn't one individual. It wasn't one player that went and won it for us. Whether that player played tonight or not, they were a part of this success."
Lee got on the board just 9:34 into the match as Leah Fortune assisted Ashley Aragona on a goal from the front of the box that caught Cavalier keeper Tori Talbutt off guard for a 1-0 lead. The sophomore duo reversed roles14 minutes later with an Aragona cross from outside the 18-yard line to Fortune, who was waiting inside the box, to push their lead to 2-0. That score stood heading into the break.
"We went into halftime and said it is 0-0," Yelton said. "I don't care what the scoreboard says, Concordia is too good of a team and they've got too good of a coaching staff for us to think that the job is over and done with. We knew we had to press and try to get a third goal."
That's exactly what Lee did. With 28 minutes left on the clock, Talbutt came out to gather a cross by Amy Cochran, only to have Aragona strike again to put the Lady Flames up 3-0.
"When the third goal went in, I probably felt a little more secure about things," Yelton said. "I knew that they are such a talented squad that we had to fight for 90 minutes tonight and I think our kids did a great job of that."
Aragona, who was forced to exit from the Semifinal game against Azusa Pacific (Calif.) due to an injury, finished the match with a pair of goals and an assist. In five national championship games played, she totaled four goals and two assists. For her performance on the field, Aragona was named Most Valuable Player and is the fourth Lee player to earn the honor.
"What she [Aragona] did tonight was probably one of the gutsiest performances I've ever witnessed as a coach," Yelton said. "She was hobbling up and down the halls all night and she could barely walk. Then she comes out here tonight and has a hand in all three goals. Not just that, but the effort she put into it. I think that if I would have tried to put her on the bench, she would have fought me to get onto the field."
The four-year run in the national championship by the Lady Flames has seen them outscore title game opponents 11-0, shutout their last 15-straight tournament foes 44-0 and have gone unbeaten in 19-consecutive matches, and senior Jamie Achten has been a part of all of it.
"It's absolutely incredible," Achten said. "I feel so worn out and so tired, but God had so much grace on me and the team. We worked our butts off every single day with that goal in mind. Even since freshman year when we first won, it was always like, we can do more; we could win all four and it actually happened. I can't even believe it."
One of the most decorated players in NAIA women's soccer, Achten once again etched her name in the record book by setting the single-game assist record by dishing out five in the Second Round. She also earned a spot on the 13-player All-Tournament team along with teammates Caroline Scales, Laura Thacker, Fortune and Aragona.
"Coach [Yelton] prepared us 100 percent from day one," Achten said. "It was one of those things that when you set a goal out and you are thinking about it every single day, and then when you get to this point, you can't help but give your whole heart and hope for the best."
Fortune was named the national championship's Outstanding Offensive Player, racking up four goals and four assists in five games played. Outstanding Defensive Player accolades were taken by Danielle Ross of Azusa Pacific.
|Maggie Dupes||GK||Baker (Kan.)|
|Brittany Orr||D||Concordia (Ore.)|
|Erica Wessels||D||Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.)|
|Danielle Ross||D||Azusa Pacific (Calif.)|
|Caroline Scales||D||Lee (Tenn.)|
|Leah Fortune||MF||Lee (Tenn.)|
|Mia Persson||MF||Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)|
|Jakie Hendrickson||MF||Concordia (Ore.)|
|Laura Thacker||MF||Lee (Tenn.)|
|Natalie Sun||F||Azusa Pacific (Calif.)|
|Katie Pedlowe||F||Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.)|
|Ashley Aragona||F||Lee (Tenn.)|
|Jamie Achten||F||Lee (Tenn.)|
Outstanding Offensive Player
Leah Fortune, Lee (Tenn.)
Outstanding Defensive Player
Danielle Ross, Azusa Pacific (Calif.)
Most Valuable Player
Ashley Aragona, Lee (Tenn.)