By Michael Stewart, Assistant Sports Editor
The Oklahoma Baptist women’s soccer team were crowned Great American Conference Champions Saturday, Nov. 3.
The No. 1 seeded Lady Bi-son defeated No. 2 seeded Southwestern Oklahoma State University 3-2 in overtime to secure the title.
With the win, the Lady Bison earned a bid into the NCAA Central Regional, the first national tournament appearance since making the move to Division II.
“It means so much to see our hard work pay off,” junior Emily Griffith said. “This team is something special.”
The Lady Bison cruised through the GAC, going undefeated in both regular season and conference tournament play.
The win extended their winning streak to 14 games, dating all the way back to Sept. 20.
“We just have a winning mentality,” Griffith said. “Every time we step onto the field, we expect to win.”
In the semi-finals, OBU had to take both of their opponents into overtime.
The Lady Bison took down Ouachita Baptist University 4-2 in penalties after two overtime periods.
Ouachita Baptist gave OBU a tough battle; however, the sheer grit and determination of the Lady Bison saw them earn a spot in the final.
“We definitely expected a tough game against Ouachita because they have played us tough both games in the season,” senior Jennifer Goethe said. “It was frustrating going to PK’s, but our girls were confident and composed.”
In the shootout, goalkeeper Emily Griffith managed a save in the fourth round, setting up junior Reagan Mann to secure the win with a kick of her own.
“Emily [Griffith] is one of, if not the best, goalkeepers in the conference,” Goethe said. “We knew we just had to make our shots because we trusted her to make a big save.”
The win set up a rematch of last season’s tournament final with SWOSU, who defeated Harding University in their semi-final match.
“We expected the final to be a battle,” Griffith said. “We knew it was going to take a team effort to take down SWOSU.”
The matchup proved to be as exciting as expected.
OBU opened the scoring in the 13th minute when junior Kelsey Bumgarner made a run down the right wing, and what seemed to be a cross found its way over the SWOSU keeper and into the far net for a 1-0 advantage.
SWOSU responded minutes later with a goal of their own, bringing the score level at 1-1.
The pace of the match began to slow down, and the teams began to settle into the match.
The score would remain tied at halftime.
Shortly after recess, OBU found themselves down 2-1 after SWOSU buried a cross in the 48th minute.
Once again, the advantage didn’t last long.
Freshman Tori Kitchel curled in a left-footed shot in the 52nd minute that would bring the score level once again.
The rest of regular time was very fast-paced, featuring big plays on both ends.
Griffith came up big time towards the end of the match when she stopped a SWOSU breakaway from resulting in a goal.
“I just trusted my instincts and my teammates,” Griffith said. “They all have my back and encourage me in big moments like that.”
The save proved to be an important one as regular time ended with the score knotted at 2-2.
Two minutes into the first OT period, the Lady Bison would earn what would become the game-winning corner kick.
Goethe curled in cross that would be tucked home by sophomore Hannah White for the game-winning goal.
The match ended 3-2, giving the Lady Bison the title, GAC Tournament Champions.
“I’m so proud of the way our team came out and competed,” junior Ruth King said. “Everyone fought for one another and brought their best efforts all season long.”
The win avenged last season’s heart-breaking tournament loss to SWOSU and capped off a historic season for OBU.
Following the match, senior Kerregan Edwards was named the GAC Tournament MVP, while sophomore Hannah Evans, senior Emmily Infante, Goethe, and White were all named to the GAC All-Tournament team.
For the Lady Bison, the season doesn’t end here.
Oklahoma Baptist (15-4-1) now await their regional assignment, which will be announced Monday, Nov. 5 during a 5:30 p.m. webstream on NCAA.com.