Photo by Chris Helton - chPhotoVideo.com
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - (Box Score | Bracket) Twelfth-seeded Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) continues to make program history at the 2012 NAIA Women's Soccer National Championship, presented by the Sports Medicine at Orthopaedic Group, P.C., and Encore Rehabilitation, Inc., as the Tigers advance to their first-ever national championship final after tying four-time defending national champion No. 1 Lee (Tenn.), 1-1, on Friday. Olivet Nazarene, who advanced due to a 4-1 score on penalty kicks, will take on the winner of No. 2 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) and No. 6 Spring Arbor (Mich.) in tomorrow's national championship final at 5 p.m. CST at the Orange Beach Sportsplex in Orange Beach, Ala.
"I'm really proud of the girls," said Olivet Nazarene head coach Bill Bahr. "At the beginning of the game I told them it takes one goal to make an impact on a game. We came out hard and got the goal early on. We lit a fire under Lee and had to weather the storm, but I knew if we'd get to PK's (penalty kicks) we could win this game."
In high-press, attack oriented contest, Olivet Nazarene (19-3-1) took the early lead at the nine-minute mark on Jessica Higer's second goal of the championship - ninth of the season. The score was setup by a Kelsey Warp cross that slipped past the Lee goalkeeper to give Higer an open net. The goal is the first time Lee has surrendered scores in back-to-back championship games since 2008.
Lee (20-1-2) found the equalizer in the 69th minute when Ashley Aragona broke past the Tiger defender a sent a chip far-post for her 10th goal of the season.
Despite 18 combined shots in the second half and two overtime periods, neither team found the back of the net. Olivet Nazarene, who was appearing in their first-ever national championship semifinal, connected on its first four penalty shots, while Lee converted just 1-of-3.
The tie makes Lee 5-1-1 all-time in semifinal play and ends the Lady Flames four-match national championship streak.
NeuLion, the NAIA's official video-stream company of 12 select NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting all matches of the 2012 Women's Soccer National Championship final site in Orange Beach, Ala. Single-day packages can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-tournament pass is available for $29.95. For more information or to pre-register, click here.
For more information on the 2012 NAIA Women's Soccer National Championship, click here.
Olivet Nazarene head coach Bill Bahr
National Championship Semifinal No. 1 Notes
• Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) advances to its first-ever national championship final. The Tigers had previously never advanced past the second round.
• Lee (Tenn.), who goes to 5-1-1 all-time in semifinal action, fails to advance to the championship finals for the first time since 2007.
• The last time a semifinal match was decided on penalty kicks was in 2009 when former NAIA member Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) advanced past former NAIA member Azusa Pacific (Calif.), 3-0, after playing to a 0-0 tie.
• Olivet Nazarene is the fourth-straight team seeded No. 8-or-lower to reach the final - unseeded Point Loma Nazarene in 2009, unseeded Hastings (Neb.) in 2010 and No. 8 Concordia (Ore.) in 2011.
• Olivet Nazarene is trying to become the 12th different teams in NAIA women's soccer history to win a national crown.
• Olivet Nazarene is the first team from the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference to appear in the women's soccer national championship final.
• There have now been two teams advancing on penalty kicks in this year's championship.