Junior Emily Bunnell scored the game-winning goal in the 82nd minute. PHOTO: WWU Athletics
Vikings Open GNAC Championships With 2-1 Victory
November 1, 2018
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Western Washington University women’s soccer team scored a pair of second half goals, including the game-winning goal by junior forward Emily Bunnell in the 82nd minute to give the No. 1 seed Vikings a 2-1 victory over No. 4 seed Simon Fraser on Thursday afternoon in a semifinal match-up of the GNAC Championships at Tuominen Yard.
WWU, ranked No. 6 nationally and No. 1 in the West Region, extended its winning streak to 7 consecutive games and unbeaten streak to 13 straight (12-0-1) to improve to 16-2-1 overall. Simon Fraser dropped to 10-6-1 overall with the loss.
Western will play for a fourth consecutive GNAC Championships title on Saturday, meeting the winner of the Seattle Pacific/Concordia game (started at 7 pm) at 3:30 pm on Saturday in Portland. The Vikings have advanced to the championship game in the tournament every season since it began in 2012, and will be going after its fifth overall GNAC Championships title.
“We were a resilient bunch today, showing great composure and belief throughout the match,” said WWU head coach Travis Connell, who has led the Vikings to an undefeated 11-0-2 record in the GNAC Championships. “Seasons hang in balance in these types of games, and we were given a great test today that I think will really help us in the playoffs.”
After a defensive battle in the first half that resulted in a scoreless first 45 minutes, WWU junior defender Lindsey Fujiwara(Sammamish, WA/Skyline) opened the scoring five minutes into the second half with her first goal of the season. After securing the ball far outside the box, Fujiwara dribbled to about 35 yards out and fired a long-distance chip shot over the head of the SFU goalkeeper.
"We got the ball off a throw-in," said Fujiwara when asked about the play. "I got the ball, saw the one-on-one opportunity with some space and decided to hit the shot to see what happened."
With just over 10 minutes left in regulation, Simon Fraser scored the equalizer in the 80th minute when midfielder Samantha Donald scored at the 79:19 mark. Donald corralled a loose ball in the box after a punch-out by WWU goalkeeper Natalie Dierickx (Kirkland, WA/Inglemoor/Colorado State), and fired a shot past multiple defenders for her second goal of the season.
The resilient Vikings answered right back less than three minutes later, when Bunnell (Kirkland, WA/Lake Washington) scored the go-ahead goal at the 81;57 mark. WWU’s attacking offense secured a free kick from 30-yards out, where senior defender Taylor Hallquist (Vancouver, WA/Columbia River) delivered a perfect pass into the box where Bunnell headed it home for her first goal of the season.
“We had some players step up today, with big goals by Emily (Bunnell) and Fuji (Lindsey Fujiwara),” added Connell. “Everyone on this team believes they can decide a game for us, and that was certainly on display today.”
The Clan were able to create a couple scoring chances down the stretch but only got one shot off in the contest's final eight minutes. That shot was promptly scooped up and dove GNAC Newcomer of the Year Dierickx, who tallied three saves to secure her 16th win of the year.
The Vikings out-shot SFU 17-7 and doubled its opponents looks on goal (8-4).
“I sound like a broken record, but Taylor Hallquist was really impressive again today, playing a critical role both attacking and on defense,” said Connell on his senior defender. “She has approached the whole season with a great attitude and is doing whatever she can to help this team.”
Kickoff for Saturday's GNAC Championships final is set for 3:30 p.m. at Tuominen Yard in Portland, with the match streamed live on GNAC.tv.