When a pair of NAIA powerhouses comes together you expect nothing but outstanding soccer and that is exactly what was on display during Thursday’s matchup between No. 2 Lindsey Wilson College and No. 3 Lee University. The Lady Flames rebounded from a weekend defeat by Embry-Riddle to claim a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over the Blue Raiders.
The Lady Flames (2-1) are hosting the annual Kickin’ It for Kids with Cancer event. In the opening match of the four-team event, Vanguard (Calif.) rolled past Olivet Nazarene (Ill.), 4-1. The action continues on Saturday when Vanguard tests Lindsey Wilson at 5 p.m. and Lee faces Olivet in the main event at 7:30.
Lee appeared to be on its way to a victory when junior Leah Fortune scored the second of her two goals at the 55:49 mark, giving the Lady Flames a 2-0 lead. Fortune’s first score came off a deflection by a Blue Raider defender, but the second tally was a thing of beauty. Senior Clair Lanter set the play in motion with a pass to senior teammate Amy Cochran, who delivered a perfect cross to Fortune and the talented midfielder zipped the ball into the back of the net.
A very physical Lindsey Wilson came firing right back. Natasha Gensetter cut the margin to 2-1 in the 58th minute and the Blue Raiders knotted the match and shocked the Lee fans when Michaelsen Lillelund got inside the box and drilled a shot home in the 71th minute. It was a back-and-forth fight the remaining 19 minutes of regulation, but neither could muster a goal.
The sudden-death overtime saw freshman Marie Eliassen give the Lady Flames the spine-tingling win when she ripped a hard shot past Blue Raider keeper Loren Cerafice. Lee coach Matt Yelton raced some 50 yards to celebrate with his club. “I’ve been coaching 16 years and that’s the first time I’ve had a team win in overtime,” he said while sporting a big smile.
The stats show the match was almost dead even. Lee had 13 shots and five were on target. Lindsey Wilson took 11 shots and four were on goal. The Blue Raiders had 12 corner kicks and the Lady Flames 11. Lee’s keeper Leah Wilson came up with two saves and Cerafice also had two.
“It’s nights like tonight that make all of the effort that we put into this sport worth it,” said Yelton. “The girls made me so proud and showed such great character to get the win that I just don’t think I can put it into words the way I feel about them right now.
“Lindsey Wilson is such a good team, and (coach) Drew Burwash does such a great job of getting his team prepared to play that tonight’s win will be a very special one for our program.
“It would be very hard to single out one player tonight, because I thought we got so many good performances in so many different places. Our back line did a great job of containing some very dangerous players, and our mids and forwards did a fantastic job of making sure that we created good goal-scoring opportunities.
“I have to give a ton of credit to Lindsey Wilson for the performance they put in though,” he added. “Coming back from being two goals down is not easy to do, and I thought both teams showed great character and played some really exciting soccer to watch tonight.
“We can enjoy this for a little while, but we have to get back to work and start to prepare for Olivet on Saturday night.”